Target Community & Educational Services opens new homes for clients, grad students

Back in a corner lot of a quiet shady drive in central Westminster sits a new house with light brown siding, a broad driveway and a covered front patio with a rocking chair. And in last Thursday, in that rocking chair, sat Helen Smith.

“Do you like our house?” she asked visitors.


Smith is one of three clients of Target Community & Educational Services, Inc. — along with Susan Shober and Laurie Whayland — who live in the new home on Park Drive, a recent upgrade from their old homes, on Velvet Run Road, Chazadal Way and other Westminster locations, which were built in the early 1990s.

“It’s bright here,” Smith said of the new home. “There’s no cars, buses. The other was noisy. We like it here.”

Target is a nonprofit, licensed agency that provides services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to President Tom Zirpoli.

“We serve about 300 individuals a year,” he said.

Of those 300, about 25 are people who Target cares for in eight homes that are staffed to take care of the needs of those clients, Zirpoli said.

Those needs can range from assistance doing everything from eating to bathing, or, as in the case of the three women at the new Park Drive home, assisting fairly independent people in their daily lives, according to residential manager of multiple Target homes Jessica Mussellman.

“We really try to facilitate a lot of independence so, daily, weekly monthly, we track their goals and progress as far as becoming more independent people,” she said.

But everyone gets older, Zirpoli noted, and as Target’s clientele have aged, the organization has been upgrading their network of homes in order to future-proof their resources and allow their clients to age in place.

“The agency has been around since ’83 and at that time a lot of the clients were very young, even teens and young adults. Now they are in their 50s and 60s and 70s,” he said. “We can’t have houses with stairs, and we have one house left that is a split level and that’s got to go, that’s my next project. We just can’t have homes that are not accessible.”

That means for the home — and its twin, built at the same time and next door on Park Drive, a $1.1 million project in total — wider hallways, accessible, roll-in bathtubs, an open floor plan and PVC flooring that looks like hardwood but can handle spills and scuffs and scrapes.

“Right now these ladies might not need the accessibility, but we hope to have them for the rest of their lives,” Mussellman said. “This home is to help them age in place, so if they should ever need to be in a wheelchair or need a walker or anything of that nature, they live in a home that provides that for them.”

This brought immediate benefits for the three women, especially Smith, who enjoys cooking in the large kitchen open to the living/common room in the front of the house.

“I like to read cookbooks,” she said.

All three women showed off their new rooms with pride, having selected the paint color for their new digs — light blue for Shober, a light brown/rose for Whayland and a bright yellow-orange for Smith.


But it’s not just more pleasant, or useful at some future date — according to Tiffeny Ricks and Nichele Sumner, the two live-in community living managers in the home, who have their own basement apartment — the new layout makes the day-to-day much easier.

“The house that we had before was a tri-level house,” Ricks said. “We still stayed in the basement, but the ladies had upstairs and downstairs.”

“If they need help we are able to get to them much faster than we would be if we were in the old house,” Sumner added. “I definitely like that and you can kind of hear everything that is going on because everyone is on the same level.”

Ricks and Sumner are graduate students in the second year of a program at McDaniel College, where Zirpoli is also the Laurence J. Adams Endowed Chair in Special Education, that will soon see them graduate with master’s degrees in human services management. Zirpoli is the coordinator for the graduate program.

Both women have an interest in working with people with disabilities and were drawn from around the state — Montgomery County for Sumner, the Eastern Shore for Ricks — to McDaniel for the opportunity to work at Target as part of their education.

“You get behind the scenes of everything when you live with them, because we’re around them 24/7,” Ricks said. “It’s amazing actually. It’s very good hands-on experience.”

It’s a good experience for the clients as well.

“These ladies help me a lot,” Smith said of Ricks and Sumner.