A PLACE FOR THEM TO LEARN
“Opportunity Works opens center to teach skills to disabled”
By Paul Tennant Staff Writer
People with serious intellectual challenges have come a long way from the days when they were warehoused in institutions such as the huge Fernald School in Waltham and largely forgotten.
Nowadays many developmentally disabled citizens live in their own apartments and hold down jobs.
Opportunity Works, a not-for-profit agency that has been providing training for disabled adults in the Haverhill area for more than 40 years, has been a part of this trend and has just opened a new facility near the Kenoza Street entrance to Northern Essex Community College.
A ribbon cutting and open house were held last week. The building has 12 specialized classrooms that offer the latest technology and a variety of services.
Today, nearly 250 people from across the Merrimack Valley take part in the support programs offered by the agency. Opportunity Works used a satellite facility in Haverhill for more than 15 years.
Executive Director Jane Harris-Fale, a lifelong Haverhill resident, explained the need to build a new facility.
“Our Haverhill site was at capacity, serving many people with involved needs, which required more space,” she said. “The necessity to support individuals with disabilities across the spectrum of needs grows each year. In addition, the facility allows us to serve Haverhill residents in their own community, which benefits both Haverhill and the individual. Many of the individuals we support work and volunteer in the community.”
Opportunity Works was founded in 1974 by a group of families to help adults with disabilities live full and productive lives.
Adults with intellectual and physical disabilities including autism, Down syndrome and traumatic brain injuries receive individual programming five days a week at Opportunity Works.
Researchers say that the number of people with disabilities requiring assistance has grown to 19 percent of the population in Massachusetts.
The new facility is designed to serve nearly 178 people in the next five to seven years.
The expansion is expected to add at least 20 jobs in the next four years, Harris-Fale said.