Fifty years ago, Hancock County voters approved two levies for the construction and operation of a school for children with developmental disabilities. Since it opened on East Sandusky Street in 1966, Blanchard Valley Center has been striving to increase opportunities for those with disabilities to learn, live, work and play in the community.
The efforts are still paying off. Those with disabilities are more integrated in the community than ever. Twenty-nine artists work at the center’s Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay and more than 70 others are employed in businesses throughout Hancock County.
Now, it’s time to renew one of the center’s two operating levies. A five-year, 2.5-mill levy for operations and programs is on the May 6 ballot.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone would vote no.
The center meets a silent need in the community, and has grown to be a critical lifeline to over 500 individuals and their families.
Enrollment at the center, which serves preschool through adults, has increased by one-third over the past five years. But it’s not just serving more individuals, according to center Superintendent Connie Ament, but individuals with more intense needs, such as autism, and those with developmental delays and mental illness.
It would be understandable if the board which oversees the center and related Blanchard Valley Industries were asking voters for more money. But it’s not.
The center makes do with levies (51 percent of revenue), federal funding (42 percent) and community support. It has managed to keep up by securing more federal funding, and by reducing salary expenses by 16 percent from 2008-2012.
Hancock County’s disabled have become much more visible throughout the community in recent years. Adults participate in work-training programs offered through Blanchard Valley Industries or a variety of private providers. Many are now employed at area businesses or work in-house in BVI’s document management business.
Another outlet is Kan Du, where artists make and sell their work, and interact with the public. The studio is expected to expand in the future with the recent announcement of a $500,000 state grant, funding which is separate from the levy.
That’s exciting, considering it will be the Kan Du artists who will be leading the way and contributing to a long-needed visual arts center in the community.
Clearly, the opportunities have grown for those with disabilities since the 1960s, but the challenges remain. More, not less, are expected to need the center’s services in the future.
Meanwhile, the center is doing well managing its resources.
Recently, it was awarded accreditation certification for five years through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities for completing the requirements to improve the quality of services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities. The five-year period is the highest possible award.
We urge voters to continue to provide financial support to the center, where, as one board member likes to say, “a miracle happens every day.”
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