DOVER -- The halls are empty, but the building is far from quiet. A piano player leads a chorus of singing voices coming through computer speakers. In another room, a staff member runs a morning meeting, with laughing voices from a Zoom call.
This is what community participation at Great Bay Services looks like during the COVID-19 crisis.Great Bay Services provides support to more than 150 adults with disabilities and their families in Seacoast New Hampshire and Southern Maine. Programs include community participation services, job supports, independent living, and case management.
Community Participation Services (CPS) is typically based outside of the centers, with clients and staff making daytrips to different locations, volunteer sites, and other activities. It also includes educational opportunities, like music therapy, drama, and art classes.
With concerns of COVID-19 exposure, Great Bay acted quickly and moved their CPS program to remote learning, with staff conducting online classes, conference calls, and one-on-one calls so clients still receive daily services. They also connect with their peers to combat anxiety, depression, and isolation in a very vulnerable population.
The change is coming under the leadership of Great Bay Services' new Executive Director Pamela Layne, who joined the staff in the midst of the crisis."We are living in highly unusual circumstances, and we are once again finding ourselves in the midst of change - this time having to find new and creative ways of providing vital services to the individuals we support while protecting everyone's health and safety," said Layne. "Great Bay has survived for 66 years, and I continue to be impressed by how resilient we are as an organization."
Layne has experience working for educational, non-profit organizations, and disability services in the United States and abroad, including the International OCD Foundation, the European League of Institutes of the Arts, and UNH's Student Accessibility Services.
Her relationship with Great Bay Services began when her brother David joined the Great Bay bowling team in 1979.
"It is with tremendous joy and pride that I join the remarkable team at Great Bay Services, an organization that has been an integral part of my own family's support system," said Layne. "To be joining the staff here is deeply meaningful to me."Layne will oversee Great Bay's operations from their Dover, New Hampshire and Sanford, Maine locations.
"All of our programs are still in operation, though at a reduced level," added Layne. "People don't always realize that individuals with disabilities make up part of the essential workforce. They are still working, and our job coaches are right alongside them."
Great Bay Services was founded in 1954 by a group of parents who refused to send their children with disabilities to the state institutions. The organization continued to be instrumental in the class-action lawsuit that shut down the institution system in New Hampshire. Today, GBS is still on the forefront of innovative and progressive care of adults with disabilities in New Hampshire and Maine.
Anyone looking to support Great Bay Services are invited to send their tax-deductible donations to Great Bay Services, 23 Cataract Ave, Suite 1, Dover, NH 03820.
Elizabeth Worboys Burr is the Director of New Hampshire & Maine Mission Advancement for Great Bay Services