The Early Years…
Across the nation during the 1950’s, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) were still being hidden away in both public and private institutions, or they were kept at home with little to no educational opportunities afforded them. But parents and concerned citizens were beginning to acknowledge that the application of newly developed special education teaching methodologies could result in measureable educational gains for even the most severely impaired children. Add to this the growing sentiment to abolish segregation at all levels of society and parents were finally encouraged that their children could benefit from community-based educational and skill-development programs that would focus on societal inclusion, not exclusion.
And so in 1954, parents of children with significant developmental disabilities who had been raised in their home community were joined by other Grant County leaders to establish an organization whose purpose was to promote and provide for community-based educational opportunities.
The first program that opened was called Pleasant Day School. Donated space was provided in the original YMCA building on 3rd Street in Marion. 23 students, ages 6 to 26, were taught by unpaid volunteer teachers. The program quickly outgrew its location and was subsequently moved to donated space in the old Central Labor Temple at 318 E. Second Street. In recognition of the growing national advocacy movement on behalf of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the organization became one of the first chapters of the National and Indiana Associations for Retarded Children. The Community Chest, now the United Way of Grant County was approached to provide funding to cover the costs of facilities and to begin paying staff.
As the community-based service movement grew, demand for these services grew exponentially. The State of Indiana named Carey Services the designated provider of community-based services for persons with I/DD in Grant and Blackford Counties. Both counties began providing financial support for operations to compliment the growing financial support which came from a State operating grant. In 1965, the organization moved into the former Mechanical PHC building at 27th and the Bypass, which afforded expanded space needed to establish a sheltered work program. The clients served were now all young adults and were in need of vocational training and paid work. Job placement services began and included mobile work crews that went out into such businesses in the community such as Big D Car Wash, providing enterprises with dedicated and supervised workers. New funding for these work oriented services came from the Indiana Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The business name now was changed to Opportunity Industries, reflecting the new focus on adult services. Persons with physical and sensory impairments were also enrolled in these new vocational programs.
Young children with developmental delays were not overlooked. A student intern from Indiana Wesleyan University, then Marion College, was brought in to begin providing early intervention services for children as young as 3 years of age. Classroom space was made available by the addition of a remodeled mobile home which was located along the south side of the Western Avenue building.
Much of this service growth came under the leadership of Robert J. St. Germaine, who was hired by the agency’s Board of Directors in early 1968 as its first Executive Director who had an educational and employment background in the field of disabilities. A summer day and overnight camping program for hundreds of adult and school-age children with disabilities was initiated in 1968. Also, the agency borrowed $55,000 from the United Way of Grant County to purchase their Western Avenue location, a loan which was paid back over the next 6 years.
Public and private institutions for persons with disabilities were under federal and state regulatory pressure, as well as legal action in some cases, to eliminate over-crowding. Special education services in the public schools were expanding. States were being encouraged to initiate and expand community-based services. There was growing national dialogue around federal legal action which would mandate that all children of school-age would be served by local school systems, no matter what their disability. In 1972, due to the need for more space to accommodate increased enrollments, the agency relocated its preschool program to the parish hall basement of Gethsemane Episcopal Church on Marion. All of these factors pointed to the need for significantly expanded building space sufficient to serve the anticipated huge growth in demand for community-based services. The agency began acquiring land adjoining its current location. An Indianapolis architectural firm, Archonics Corporation, was hired to develop plans for a 6-acre campus with approximately 50,000 square feet of space across three buildings. The agency’s Board of Directors and executive leadership applied for and received almost $2 million in construction grant funding, with 50% coming from the federal government, 25% from the State of Indiana and the remaining 25% from Grant and Blackford Counties, which was shared on population-based pro rata basis. Construction plans were unfortunately delayed for over two years due to an economic recession and the subsequent freezing of federal funding.
In July of 1974, two events occurred almost simultaneously. St. Germaine resigned his position as Executive Director and Mark R. Draves, Assistant Director since his hire in 1971, was appointed interim administrator. Secondly, federal construction funds were finally released and the building plans were back on schedule. In September of 1974, Mr. Draves was selected by the Board to succeed St. Germaine, beginning what was to become a 39 year stint as Executive Director and subsequently President and CEO.
In the fall of 1975, ground-breaking ceremonies initiated an 18-month construction project on what became the Grant-Blackford Developmental Center. Occupancy of the new facilities was celebrated with a public open house in March of 1977, attended by hundreds of consumers, families as well as members of the general public. Later that year, an agreement was reached with the City of Marion water utilities to lease adjoining land to the north of the campus in order to address the pressing need for additional parking.
Mandatory special education programs in the public schools, the downsizing of institutions for persons with disabilities and the expansion of community-based day services resulted in persons with I/DD remaining in and returning to their home communities. A growing emphasis on more “normalized” living options prompted states to develop new community-based residential alternatives. In 1978, the agency became a pilot site for a new State-funded program named FAST (Follow-Along, Support and Training). Three contiguous townhouses at Greentree West Apartments on Spencer Street were rented to house 8 adults who were in transition to a more independent lifestyle. Direct support staff was provided by the agency 24/7.
The downsizing of over-crowded institutions was accomplished to a large degree by many states, including Indiana, by transferring persons to local nursing homes in order to avoid federal regulatory and legal action. States also began utilizing federal Medicaid match to finance these placements as well as their institutions. This refinancing came with the stipulation that appropriate day services be made available for those who now resided in nursing homes. At the time, few of these individuals required skilled or intermediate nursing care. With a relatively high number of placements in the area, the agency initiated a non-vocational Adult Day Activity program at its campus to afford these folks an opportunity for both meaningful day activities as well as skill development services which focused on increased independence and in many cases employment opportunities. Later these services became known as the OBRA program, which subsequently grew into the largest of its kind in Indiana.
The organization became well known both statewide and nationally for its innovative and client-focused services. Several presentations were made by staff at professional association meetings. The agency hosted two national conferences; one on respite care and the other on the topic of age-appropriate leisure skill development for adults. Agency staff became responsible in part for the establishment of the Recreation and Leisure subdivision of the American Association on I/DD.
This decade brought significant expansion of community-based services primarily financed through state and federal Medicaid dollars. Group homes housing 6 to 8 persons with fulltime direct care staff opened across the country. In 1980, the agency opened its first Medicaid-funded group home for adults, some of whom had previously resided in state institutions and nursing homes. Located at 2106 S. Washington Street in Marion, this home would later be relicensed to support adults who had a dual diagnosis of I/DD and mental illness. In 1983, a home was purchased and remodeled in Hartford City to provide housing for 6 older adults who were transitioning to a more “retired” lifestyle but did not require nursing care. Three more homes opened at roughly two-year intervals; one at 915 W. 5th Street, Marion, one at 47th and Adams Street and another in Upland for 7 adults.
Early Intervention services continued to expand with the agency being selected by the State as one of ten organizations to pilot its new First Steps early childhood education initiative.
The agency applied for and became full members in both the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (INARF) and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR). Several of the agency’s executive staff has served in leadership and governance roles in both organizations over the years, which speaks to how highly valued the agency is for its quality and integrity.
Transportation to and from the day programs demanded the purchase of several large vans as well as the increased use of the Marion City Bus system.
Employment options blossomed including a contract to staff and manage a local recycling operation named PAG-osaurus.
This decade presented the organization with what has become a never-ending climate of significant change and constant reexamination of its organizational mission and purpose.
It began with the opening of what was then noted by the State as its last licensed group home. A new home was built on land purchased at 1703 Laurel Street housing 8 adults with significant impairments. The trend now was to focus on smaller Supported Living residential options of fewer than 4 persons and more individualized choices for their day and residential services. Terms like person-centered planning, while not new to the agency, gave greater control and decision-making responsibilities to the consumer. Along with that shift came the expectation that consumers would also be bearing a greater share of the cost of services. Consumers were afforded more choices of providers as the State eliminated its designated catchment service areas and welcomed the proliferation of both not-for-profit and for-profit service providers who could meet their licensing criteria.
The Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Division announced that it would be focusing its purchase of services exclusively on competitive and supported employment options for its clientele.
Both classroom-based and home-based Early Childhood Intervention services continued to grow, as evidenced by the opening of satellite classrooms in Hartford City and Upland. But by the end of the decade, services shifted completely away from specialized classrooms to more “natural” and integrated environments.
The exodus of manufacturing from the area and the resultant change in demographics would have a major impact on our traditional customer base, lines of service as well as funding streams and amounts. Increased competition from new for-profits and some nearby not-for-profits demanded greater resources be devoted to marketing, quality and customer satisfaction. Intensive strategic planning by the Board of Directors and senior administrative staff resulted in a new organization name, mission statement and strategic plan:
The mission of Carey Services is to create pathways toward self-sufficiency with personal satisfaction.
Traditional lines of service and related customer base would be enhanced by providing traditional and at times new services to additional consumers who have similar needs. The most likely consumer group for this initiative would be individuals and families who were struggling to break the bonds of poverty. The agency bid on and was awarded contracts to provide employment services to welfare recipients under the State’s IMPACT program in Grant, Madison, Cass, Wabash and Tipton Counties. Great success was experienced by utilizing a “work first, place then train” service model and by leveraging the agency’s positive reputation with local employers. These contracts continued to show great results for many years until the State administration privatized and consolidated welfare eligibility and service delivery with a single contractor consortium.
As the State’s First Steps early childhood intervention program moved toward more “natural” settings, the agency applied for and was awarded the federal Early Head Start grant for Grant and Blackford Counties. Early Head Start targets pregnant mothers and children ages birth to three who come from low-income families. The service model employed a combination of both classroom-based and home-based settings providing high quality early childhood educational interventions while assisting the families to acquire the personal and developmental assets which are needed for economic self-sufficiency. Program enrollment began with a capacity of 120 children and their families and grew quickly with additional funding to serve 140.
The success of agency employment programs in assisting persons with I/DD find and retain a job was key to seeing many persons with mental illness selecting Carey Services as their service provider.
The unique OBRA program model which was employed resulted in significantly positive outcomes for service recipients. Its reputation spread quickly and resulted in the opening of two satellite operations in neighboring Wabash County. As adults who had no medical needs moved out of nursing homes to group homes and supported Living settings, the typical OBRA service recipient became much more medically fragile with profound disabilities. Carey Services’ OBRA program was now the largest in the State of Indiana.
The strategic plan also called for greater financial self-sufficiency for the agency. A new partnership with Mitchell Marketing Group helped to fill some of the void in workshop production as the agency became the sole manufacturer of their Mr. Canary bird feeders. These feeders are marketed and sold nationally through large retail chains such as Walmart. An annual fund-raiser, the Carey Cruise-in Car Show, ran for several years with support from local car enthusiasts. A free standing therapy clinic opened employing several therapists providing Speech, Physical, Occupational and Developmental therapies on an out-patient basis to a broad customer base of both individuals with special needs and the general public. Subsequent cuts in both First Steps and Medicaid/Medicare funding made the clinic financially unviable after a few years.
The OBRA program expanded into Cass County at the invitation of the State to fill an existing void for nursing home residents. A total lack of suitable physical plant space required the construction of a 4,000 square foot facility on Chase Road in Logansport.
The agency was awarded a group home license to open a home in Atlanta, Indiana to assist with the relocation of several individuals who required placement as the result of the de-licensing of a nursing home. Medicaid Waiver-funded Supported Living supports expanded to serve almost 100 recipients. Alternatively, two group homes were closed due to this shift in services models.
One of the most noteworthy accomplishments for the agency was the development of the first certificated workforce training program for its direct care workforce, known as DSP’s. Indiana at the time had no systematic training programs for DSP’s, unlike many other states. The agency approached Ivy Tech Community College with a curriculum borrowed from Minnesota with a request to have the courses integrated into its standard offerings. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development awarded a matching worker training grant to the agency to help underwrite this initiative, the first time the State had ever recognized the specific training needs of this employee group. Fifteen college credits would be earned upon successful completion of the coursework and a substantial wage increase was also awarded. Approximately 40 DSP’s successfully completed the program. Six years later the State finally recognized the critical need for DSP workforce training and funded a pilot project with Carey Services and 9 additional providers to develop a standardized statewide curriculum. Halfway through the project, funding was regrettably withdrawn due to the effects of the recession on State revenues.
Early Head Start opened satellite classrooms in Hartford city as enrollment grew to 140 with added funding, only to be reduced ten years later to 122 as a result of federal funding reductions.
Another self-grown initiative to create jobs and generate operating income developed as the agency opened a new confidential document retrieval and destruction business service named docu-SHIELD. The enterprise quickly has grown to over 250 customers and has been one of the most successful ventures in the history of the agency.
A new fund-raising event, the Carey Services Duck Race is conducted in collaboration with the Marion City Parks and Recreation Department each year. Chances are sold which give supporters a chance a winning cash and other prizes. The event is held in summer on the Lazy River at the beautiful Marion Splash House.
In 2009, Carey Services opened a free-standing primary care clinic named Capabilities. It was licensed as a Rural Health Clinic due to the geographic area being designated as a Medically Underserved Area. A partnership with Activate Healthcare afforded an opportunity to offer prevention-focused, capitated primary care to local employer groups. While the clinic eventually closed due to a provider shortage and insufficient employer commitments, it is an example of the foresight and initiative which Carey Services has historically demonstrated.
The ever-increasing demand for Supported Living sites that can house 4 persons could not be adequately met by utilizing existing housing stock. That is true for almost all communities across the country. In order to meet the local demand for these settings, it became necessary to look at new construction of affordable and accessible housing. Partnering with the Affordable Housing Corporation, grant applications were submitted to construct 5 side-by-side duplexes, with two-bedrooms on each side giving a maximum capacity for serving up to 20 individuals. An adjoining door between each side of the duplex easily allows staff to provide support for up to 4 persons, as dictated by reduced funding levels. The homes were located on land already owned by the agency between South Carey and Landess Streets directly across the street from Carey Services’ main campus entrance. An open house in the fall of 2013 helped celebrate the full occupancy of these units which will provide safe, affordable and accessible living environments which permit these residents to age in place.
Business partnerships are also a key strategy in its business plan, and so the agency has joined with 9 other not-for-profit providers across Indiana. Carey Services is proud to have members in both the Strategic Indiana Provider Network and the Indiana Manufacturing Consortium exploring collaborative ways to reduce operating costs and increase traditional and non-traditional service lines.
In the fall of 2013, after 42 years with the agency, 39 years as its CEO, Mark Draves retired. Jim Allbaugh succeeded Mark as the new CEO.
In the fall of 2016, Carey Services opened the Creative Hearts Art Studio to provide a place for the individuals we serve to have a way to express themselves through various artistic mediums, including painting, sewing, sculpture, and music and movement. The studio artists sell their works and receive the revenue.
The program launched in October 2016 with a two-week residency from artists with the Creative Abundance Group. At the end of the residency, the agency conducted the inaugural Expressions: A Community Art Experience event, which is a large public art show each October that helps introduce people to the studio and the talented artists who create their works there. The event has continued to grow each year; in 2018, the Lily the Lightning Bug sculpture that represented the theme of “Spark of Creativity” was turned into a traveling exhibit that local businesses host for a month at a time to create awareness for the art program and the creative individuals who participate.
The agency’s annual duck race had grown to the point in 2016 that it celebrated its 10th anniversary by moving to an evening event at the Marion Splash House.
The original Creative Hearts studio opened in a section of our production facility building on the Marion campus, but participation was such that in February 2017 the programming was expanded into two rooms of the Marion day services area. The original studio was renamed the Inspirations Room, while the new rooms were named the Imaginations Room, which focuses on creative expression through music and movement activities, and the Limitless room, which contains additional painting and sewing space).
Also in the spring of 2017, the agency launched the “A Night at Carey” dinner and began presenting “The Carey Awards” to community members and businesses who demonstrated a commitment to community inclusion for the individuals we serve.
In 2018, the agency was awarded a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission that allowed the artists in the Creative Hearts Art Studio to create a colorful birdhouse sculpture that is displayed in Marion’s Hogin Park near the Cardinal Greenway and not far from the agency’s main campus.
The agency celebrated a milestone year in 2019, as it spent much of the year observing the 65th anniversary of its founding. Also in 2019, the agency completed work in its second affordable housing complex, Pleasant Square. Located adjacent to the Pleasant Woods complex, the new project also consisted of five duplex units.
As fiscal year 2019 ended, the agency also completed an ambitious strategic planning process that resulted in a three-year plan and a new mission statement: “turning abilities into opportunities.” That mission continues to guide the work we do to help the individuals we serve.