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Nonprofit View: Thankful to our employees at Target Community & Educational Services | COMMENTARY

Never in a million years did I ever imagine trying to manage a nonprofit serving our most vulnerable citizens in the middle of a pandemic. But here we are. Clearly, this is not going to be a short-term challenge, either. We better start pacing ourselves.

For some, including myself, the despair of facing this challenge for another year or so is daunting. About one-third of Americans report feelings of anxiety or depression about how poorly our nation has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the personal ramifications that have followed. Five-million cases and over 162,000 deaths are overwhelming numbers.

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So let me bring you some good news coming out of our Carroll County nonprofit agencies serving people with disabilities, and specifically from our agency, Target Community & Educational Services (Target, Inc.).

Target, Inc. serves over 200 children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of residential, vocational, and personal supports programs. We are licensed and monitored by the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). In Maryland, there are 17,764 people with disabilities receiving services by the DDA. Statewide, about 502 or about 3%, had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Aug. 7. Within our agency where we are currently serving about 200 individuals, three of them, about 1.5%, have tested positive.

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All are doing well and recovering, thank goodness.

Overall, in looking at the positive rates in Carroll County, our nonprofits serving citizens living in group homes are doing better than other counties. We are grateful. This good news, however, did not come easy. Our agencies have been working hard, staying vigilant, and following all appropriate guidelines to avoid infections among our clients and employees.

The work of our employees has been impressive. Target, Inc. is back to serving close to 90% of our clients from pre-COVID numbers. We never closed any of our homes as these are the permanent homes of the clients. But we have also returned services to most of our other clients across vocational and personal supports programs. Again, our employees have been creative and determined.

Most of our employees are young. Some are graduate students at McDaniel College enrolled in our graduate program in Human Services Management and are completing a two-year internship with us. Most of them are direct support professionals. They are smart, energetic, and determined to work and care for our clients with disabilities, even in these difficult circumstances.

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The idea that employees would rather stay home and collect unemployment has been proven invalid with our employees. Only a handful of folks have decided, mostly for health reasons, that returning to work was not safe for them or a family member. The rest returned to work the second we could take them back. Indeed, the health of our agency has been the result of employees who are dedicated to the clients they serve. Many have put the care of our clients ahead of their own safety.

We are thankful for their service.

Tom Zirpoli is president and CEO of Target Community & Educational Services.

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”

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