Serving those with special needs

After spending more than 20 years serving her community by working at United Cerebral Palsy, former UPC Director of Adult Services Wendy Betsch realized that sometimes fulfilling your dreams means serving a smaller group of people in a deeply impactful way.

“(UCP) wanted a director,” she said. “I wanted to be out there loving on people.”

Betsch left UCP, spent several months exploring her heart and eventually opened her own business geared toward serving adults, ages 20 and up, with cognitive or physical disabilities. Typically, people this age are no longer in high school and have little access to day programs.

Her business, Chara, aims to try to help fix that with structured days with programs focused on three main areas – life skills, leisure and social, and health and safety, with occasional field trips focusing on community integration. A typical day might include a lesson on using technology, cooking and crafts.

It’s wonderful to have such a business here in Shelby County serving such an underserved population. We’re starting to see progress in serving disabled adults, through Chara and programs such as Project Search, which helps prepare special needs students for employment by placing them in internships at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster.

In Shelby County we have an excellent facility for special needs students at the Linda Nolen Learning Center in Pelham, but that facility only serves students throughout their school years. Special needs adults deserve to have programs that cater to them beyond that, and we’re thrilled to see such programs beginning to crop up in Shelby County.

Through these programs, adults with special needs can find companionship and fulfillment — two things essential for happy lives. We citizens of Shelby County should do all we can to encourage businesses such as Chara and programs such as Project Search, which are certainly doing their part to make Shelby County such an attractive place to live and work.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.