From humble beginnings to its 50th anniversary, Dove Pointe has been committed to providing opportunity and inclusion for disabled members of our community
Given the cue to begin, Jean Luc plays intricate songs on his violin from memory, captivating those in his presence through an arrangement of precise bow stokes, rapid trills and dramatic crescendos. He plays beautifully and sincerely, a combination that evokes emotion from each person in the room. The Haitian-born immigrant receives both day and residential supports from Dove Pointe to achieve personal success and fulfillment. Jean Luc is one of 350 individuals who receive such supports and community-integrated services at Dove Pointe — one of the Eastern Shore’s premier organizations in the delivery of wide-ranging quality services for individuals with disabilities.
“Each individual to receive supports from Dove Pointe participates in a person-centered planning process,” according to Executive Director Don Hackett. “Most satisfying is simply for each person to experience inclusion and active participation in community of their choice.”
Dove Pointe began quite modestly in 1968 (originally known as Wicomico Teen-Adult Center) in a vacant elementary school near Mardela Springs, with five employees and approximately 12 area residents needing diverse services. Beginning at the grass-roots level, with the involvement of families and county officials, a vacant county building was licensed for operation. Today, 50 years later, Dove Pointe occupies a beautiful facility on Mt. Hermon Road in Salisbury, operates 43 community residential homes in Wicomico County and employs 550 people. Dove Pointe provides needed supports to citizens with disabilities across several peninsula counties, including Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset and Sussex.
A Dorchester County native, Hackett had an intimate understanding of the specialized needs of a family member with intellectual disabilities. “As a family, we learned from and were blessed by Darrell, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. He was loved and encouraged by his own family and church family. He lived a full life with supports from Dove Pointe that included community employment at Salisbury University and having his community residential home with roommates of his choice,” Hackett recalls fondly.
Early family experiences guided Don Hackett to pursue a career in the field of education. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his master’s degree from Salisbury University. Named “Outstanding Young Educator” by the Cambridge Jaycees and serving as president of the Dorchester Educators, he immensely enjoyed his years in the public school system. In the early years of the Wicomico Teen-Adult Center, he realized the potential opportunities, and challenges, to develop meaningful services to benefit the lives of individuals with disabilities. Thus, in 1973, he accepted the position of executive director.
With a vision to have a community-based organization that provided diverse supports for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, it wasn’t long before Hackett opened a second location, in Sharptown, following increased enrollment. Students were continuing to transition at a certain age from the school system, and referrals would be received from other areas of the state. Frequently, families would relocate to the area in order to receive the services they needed.
As the organization grew, so did its mission to be a point of connection and opportunity for people with disabilities. Hackett and his highly competent team earned national accreditations and a host of community honors for their efforts.
In 1999, Hackett fulfilled a dream to move the organization into Salisbury after securing a State Capital Bond and several Community Development Block Grants in order to purchase and renovate the former Service Merchandise building on Mt. Hermon Road in Salisbury. Hackett strategically incorporated a banquet room and meeting spaces into the design for public use — furthering his goal for a more inclusive community of support and acceptance. Simultaneously, the organization was renamed Dove Pointe. The beautiful facility routinely hosts civic organizations, such as the Salisbury Sunrise Rotary weekly meetings, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, and the Society for Human Resource group. Individuals receiving support from Dove Pointe have an essential role during each function, as a greeter, coat checker or server. Dove Pointe’s banquet room is used as a community venue for weddings, birthdays, proms and corporate functions — each providing employment opportunities in banquet and hospitality services as part of its vocational training program.
The success of Dove Pointe continues to reach into the community on a daily basis, as individuals like Louis are given opportunities to work for local businesses.
“Louis has a great personality,” Hackett said. “He welcomes people as they come into Jersey Mike’s between 11:30 a.m. and 1:20 p.m. He’ll give you a high-five and tell you how good it is to see you.” Louis is a self-advocate who speaks at local employer breakfast events and at a recent state conference of provider agencies.
Community employment and volunteer opportunities are a priority in providing supports for individuals receiving services at Dove Pointe. “We have individuals working successfully at jobs in the area, such as Johnny Janosik World of Furniture, Red Lobster, Royal Farms, Perdue, IHOP, Burnett White, Shore-Up and other local businesses,” Hackett said. “Our community has been very supportive in developing partnerships.” Salisbury University has been an employment partner for more than 25 years, providing jobs to individuals from Dove Pointe in the food-service and grounds-crew operations at the university.
Dove Pointe encourages community-volunteer opportunities for individuals receiving daily supports. With transportation provided by Dove Pointe, a philosophy of “giving back” to the community is promoted. Ongoing volunteer programs include the Maryland Food Bank, the Salvation Army bell ringing, Wicomico Public Library, HALO, the reading program in elementary schools and the visitations to nursing homes and shelters. Individuals from Dove Pointe have been recognized for their volunteer hours and for “giving back” to the community.
Individuals enjoy working and receiving a paycheck at Dove Pointe, like Shelly of Berlin. She chooses to work in the food-service Department, helping to prepare 350 meals daily.
Dove Pointe’s renowned programs have even had an international impact. Hackett has served as a Rotary district governor for Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. During his tenure as district governor, he received a Rotary Global Grant to share the Mobility Opportunities Via Experiences (M.O.V.E.) program in South Africa. A vocational training team, comprising Dove Pointe and district representatives provided sustainable adaptive equipment called Pacers to enable individuals who were non-ambulatory to stand, walk and achieve greater independence. The M.O.V.E. program continues to be used at Dove Pointe, to increase physical stamina and endurance for individuals with physical disabilities.
Hackett is very outspoken in his praise of Dove Pointe’s team of talented and dedicated employees. “Each staff member plays an integral role in the success of the daily operation for both day and residential departments of the organization,” he said.
With future strategic planning at Dove Pointe, transformation is expected in the service-delivery system, according to Hackett. “We look forward to the future with increased community emphasis and to have individuals with disabilities experience lives of value, dignity and personal fulfillment.”
The diversity of needs and programs is unique at Dove Pointe. Programs include day habilitation, community employment, adult medical daycare, community residential homes, traumatic brain injury services, children’s programs, special professional consultation and after-hours mentoring. The public is encouraged to visit Dove Pointe to observe the diverse programs in operation. Contact Don Hackett, executive director, at 410-341-4472, x224, or email email@example.com for additional information.
Dove Pointe proudly celebrates its 50th anniversary with a gala on Saturday evening, June 9, at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, featuring guest speaker Dr. Temple Grandin — the world’s most accomplished and well-known adult with autism. For tickets and sponsorship information, visit DovePointe.org.
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