Beth Mount is an Important Part of our History in Kalamazoo

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. In the spring of 1985, I organized a workshop on employment here in Kalamazoo. At that time I was part of a task force that was attempting to determine what agency should be funded to run a sheltered workshop. Beth Mount organized the workshop for us and caused our task force to take an entirely different direction. Because of her influence we shifted our focus from sheltered work to competitive community employment.

Beth worked with a group of volunteers and professionals over a three-day period. She led us through the steps our community planning, using her trademark skills of facilitation combined with graphic depiction of our conversations. She organized three presentations: One on sheltered work in Seattle where people with severe disabilities were earning good wages. The second, also in Seattle, on groups of individuals working in enclaves within industry. The third was on people with disabilities in Tifton, Georgia, who working in the community in individualized competitive employment.

Before she left Kalamazoo, Beth told us about a conference held annually in Ellensberg, Washington on supported community employment. Dave Gardiner, then Executive Director of MRC Industries, Marilyn Anderson, a Board member at MRC, and I attended that conference. When we returned, Dave asked the Mental Health Board for start up funds for a pilot supported employment program at MRC. This was the beginning of this community’s focus on people with disabilities working in the community in paid jobs.

Beth came back several years later as a featured speaker at a statewide conference on community Participation that I organized. Her thoughts, along with the O’Brien’s were highly influential in the development of our Community Participation Initiative and later Community Brokering. An essential element in that work is the individualized personal futures plan. Beth’s graduate work at the University of Georgia was a driving force in the use of Person Centered Planning in Kalamazoo, in Michigan and the nation.

We are excited to welcome back this week for our fourth Forum.