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Change Inc. and Penn-Mar Human Services, nonprofits serving those with disabilities, to merge July 1

Change Inc. and Penn-Mar Human Services, nonprofits serving those with disabilities, to merge July 1
Change Inc. client Linda Little, center, shares a laugh with Bridget Owens, left, and Theresa Haltiner during an open house at Change's Respite Inn in Westminster in 2017. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Change Inc. and Penn-Mar Human Services have announced an intention to merge over the summer, creating a larger organization dedicated to serving people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in and around Carroll County.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s about to happen,” Penn-Mar CEO Greg Miller said in an interview Thursday. “It will be effective July 1 of this year, so in about 15 days or so.”

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The two nonprofits share much in the way of mission, providing employment support, direct support and respite care for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families. Change serves 160 people in Carroll County, while Penn-Mar operates in Maryland and Pennsylvania and serves more than 400 people.

“There are a lot of similar services we both provide, with the largest exception that Change doesn’t currently provide residential support and Penn-Mar does,” Change CEO Mike Shriver said.

And, Shriver noted, the merger is about combining efforts rather than reducing them. Change’s “operation will physically, visually still be here,” he said. “I think the main difference is that, effective the merger, Change will become a division of Penn-Mar Human Services.”

Shriver and Miller have known each other for years and began discussing the possibility of a merger almost a year ago, not because either organization was in trouble, but because they believed they could help each other better serve their clients.

“Our decision to do this is counter-intuitive to the general public because it has absolutely nothing to do with finances,” Shriver said. “When people hear merger, usually it’s because there is a financial benefit — to shareholders, to executives in a company —that wasn’t on our radar.”

“These conversation began from a position of strength as opposed to a position of weakness, which you would probably expect; the majority of nonprofit mergers occur because someone is in trouble or needs help,” Miller added. “Neither of us had to do this. We are both very vibrant, healthy organizations.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be financial benefits to both organizations, according to Miller.

“When we put these pieces together, we will be about a $40 million operating entity, and there are just obviously things you can do in terms of economies of scale at $40 million that you can’t do at $5 million.”

One thing that will become available to Change employees after the merger is a career training and advancement credentialing program for the direct support professionals that provide care to those with disabilities, a program Penn-Marr began implementing for its employees in 2017.

And both organizations can assist the other in what Shriver describes as a paradigm shift in how their services are being provided, moving away from a model where services are provided in one central location.

“What we are moving towards, very successful and slowly, is a model predicated on individualized community and home-based supports,” he said. “Meeting people and providing supports where they live and where they want the supports provided.”

“There’s lots of nuts and bolts involved, but at the end of the day, we want every person who has the need for some kind of support to live they live to their choosing,” Miller added. “We believe that together we have a better hope to do so.”

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