Commentary: DD board seeking the welfare of the county in levy renewal

By Alice Craig - For the Record-Herald

From the Fayette County Board of Developmental Disabilities (FCBDD), a partner in our community for exactly 50 years now. The former name “MR/DD” may be more familiar to you, but that name was modified to eliminate the phrase referring to “mental retardation.”

Fayette Progressive Industries, the workshop on Robinson Road where the actual members of the Board of DD meet monthly, is one of several adult vocational opportunities supported by the FCBDD, while the brick “Starting Gate” building across from the race track of the fairgrounds houses several outstanding programs for our youngest Fayette Countians. I’d like to inform you about only two programs for each age group, starting with the youngsters:

An early-intervention team helps around 80 local families with children under the age of three who have delays or diagnosed medical conditions. This professional team includes a nurse, a developmental specialist, and speech, occupational and physical therapists. Starting intervention services at a very young age may reduce, or even prevent, the need for costly special help later.

Secondly, Fayette Progressive Preschool partners with both public school districts to offer nearly 90 children—most with developmental delays, but also some of their typical pals—a fun yet structured preschool environment in which to learn and grow together. Remember, these are the most crucial years of brain and social development.

I am personally grateful that when I returned home to Fayette County from Germany at the end of 1989, I discovered this already-well-developed educational setting for my own then-toddler, Christoph. My heartfelt thanks go to the local pioneers back in the 1960s, such as Dr. Robert and Joy Heiny, who were strong advocates for the education of their special-needs children.

Various other FCBDD programs also serve eligible Fayette County youths transitioning into adulthood, as well as adults who may earn wages at the sheltered workshop. Here are only two of the programs for older people: First, the Next Chapter Book Club promotes community integration, as we read aloud in a public area of Carnegie Public Library, take outings to local coffee shops, and the like. Our people are exposed to the community; the community is exposed to us. My contacts at the library declare that they are delighted to host us, and librarian Aaron Teter is back again with us as a book club facilitator after his autumn stint coaching the Washington High Schools boys’ soccer team.

Special Olympics is, of course, in a league of its own. Some of you may have been in the large crowd in September at Eyman Park that watched our Special Olympics Dragons play softball against the first responders’ Guns-n-Hoses. The splendid Sunday evening was made even more glorious by the fact that while there was no entry fee for the game, volunteer Special Olympics bowling coach Debra Grover had persuaded a local fraternal/financial organization, The Modern Woodmen of America, to match any funds raised by the concession stand. She also recruited her Altrusa friends and colleagues at Miami Trace Elementary School to donate both baked goods and labor. As a result, The Modern Woodmen recently handed a generous $2,500 check to Fayette County’s Special Olympics coordinator Tim Stewart!

And now, to the point. In the Nov. 7 election, we Fayette County residents will see a proposed tax levy that is merely a RENEWAL — no new money — but vital to continued support of local developmental disabilities programs, for around 72 percent of our annual budget here comes directly from such local tax levies. If you own a house valued at $100,000, this renewal would continue at the same $175.

So once you receive your ballot—either during early voting, which started Oct. 11, or else at your precinct on Election Day, Nov. 7 — please turn it over to the back side, and vote FOR the renewal tax levy of the Fayette County Board of Developmental Disabilities. It’s local money helping local residents: approximately 300 Fayette County citizens and their families.

If you have a family member needing these services, be grateful these programs exist, and vote FOR the levy. If you do not have a family member needing these services, be doubly grateful …and vote FOR the levy.

Alice Craig is a member of the Fayette County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the mother of a 32-year-old son served by DD programs.

By Alice Craig

For the Record-Herald