When you touch a life, you touch eternity. Life’s greatest wealth is not money, it is the lives you touch. Let me tell you a story about touching lives — not just any lives, but really the least, the last and the lost.
In 1957, nine families of children with special needs established the Mesa Association for Retarded Citizens. In 1979, that organization changed its name to Marc Center for the Developmentally Disabled. The first permanent location was at 5225 S. Wilbur in Mesa. In 1978, it moved to 924 N. Country Club Drive; the land was acquired through Mesa’s Community Development Block Grant funds. Today Marc Center completes its greatest growth spurt, expanding behavioral health programs in the areas of adolescent services, community living, vocational training, placement and outpatient clinics.
Since 1980, Marc Center has increased its operating budget from $1 million to $21.5 million to accommodate the increased number of people served, from 145 to more than 3,200. This incredible growth has come about for two reasons.
First, the East Valley has had an incredible growth in population. Second, advances in medical technology and research literature clearly document that adults with life-long developmental disabilities are surviving into older age. This growth has necessitated the need for additional space to accommodate these programs.
In the 1999, Randy Gray, president and CEO of Marc Center, led a capital campaign to raise $3.3 million for the construction of a three-story, 30,000-square-foot day treatment and training facility, dedicated as the Dustin D. Wolfswinkel Rehabilitation Center in honor of the Wolfswinkel family, the largest contributors to this facility. Literally hundreds of other East Valley residents also made significant contributions to this facility.
Today, Marc Center has taken another major step forward and begun a new capital campaign to raise $4.6 million for the construction of a new 34,400-square-foot, barrier-free design vocational training facility that will accommodate state-of-the-art technology and allow Marc Center to better prepare people with disabilities for employment in the community.
Given the dramatic population growth in the East Valley and the increased number of people with disabilities who are living longer lives, Marc Center has witnessed a 400 percent increase in referrals for vocational training for adults with mental, physical, developmental and behavioral disabilities who are seeking vocational training to develop a variety of transferable skills in securing and maintaining community employment.
A number of vocational training services will be provided in this facility to help prepare each person with a disability for community employment. The center-based workshop offers experiences in real work situations while these individuals earn commensurate wages for work completed. The primary objective of this program is to provide ongoing vocational assessment/evaluation and training/placement services to adults with severe disabilities that help them become self-sufficient.
Groundbreaking for the new facility was June 11, 2007, at Marc Center’s main campus in Mesa and is expected to be completed by October.
If you have children, as I have, you take a great sense of pride when they first learn to drive an automobile and got their first driver’s license. At Marc Center, you have an opportunity to meet children who get that same sense of pride when they first learn to brush their own teeth or learn to load and turn on a dishwasher.
The East Valley can take great pride in Marc Center and the lives it touches.
Charles Wahlheim, former publisher of the Tribune, lives in Tempe.