Easter Seals turns 50

October 21, 1998|By MEG H. PARTINGTON

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Easter Seal Society of Franklin and Adams Counties Inc. is celebrating progress.

In the five decades that the Chambersburg and Waynesboro, Pa., chapters have worked together to help the disabled become more self-sufficient, they have taken major steps.

"Our mission is to help people with disabilities live a more independent life," says Robert S. Hoover, 70, who has been president/CEO of The Easter Seal Society of Franklin and Adams Counties since 1991.

--cont. from lifestyle--

A tragedy led to the formation of The Easter Seal Society in 1919.

Dr. Edgar F. Allen's son was hit by a streetcar in Elyria, Ohio, but no services were available to save the boy's life. So Allen and his fellow Rotary Club members raised enough money to build a hospital. He later led the national movement that established Easter Seals.


Chambersburg Rotary Club started an Easter Seals chapter in 1926. Waynesboro Rotary Club followed suit in 1938, and 10 years later the two groups merged.

At that time, they called themselves The Easter Seal Society of Franklin County.

Adams County was added to the mix in 1989, expanding the organization's reach, and its name. The Adams County office is at 670 Johns Ave., Gettysburg, Pa.

The building that the Chambersburg office is housed in at 55 Hamilton Road was created as a gym for physical therapy, the first type of service offered there. Walls eventually were put up in the gym to make room for speech therapy. Audiology services also are offered in Chambersburg, including evaluation and rehabilitation of hearing disorders, and fitting and servicing of hearing aids.

The Waynesboro facility focused primarily on physical therapy in its early years. In the 1960s, speech therapy was added, followed by occupational therapy, which hones clients' fine motor skills.

A physician must prescribe physical and occupational therapies, Hoover explains.

The staff at the Waynesboro site, at 34 Roadside Ave. behind Waynesboro Hospital, runs the rehabilitation department at the hospital, explains Rick Boyer, clinical supervisor. Warm-water pool therapy was added this year in conjunction with Waynesboro YMCA, he says.

"We're always looking to see what's needed," Boyer says. "There's always a challenge out there."

Hoover considers the Waynesboro office's link with the hospital to be the most innovative project the chapter has undertaken.

That creativity, combined with the growing number of services, makes Easter Seals' presence more widely known.

"That makes us a complete rehabilitative service for the community," Hoover says.

The society also offers interpreters and case managers for the deaf and hearing impaired and loans car seats, walkers, canes, crutches and wheelchairs.

Easter Seals also has a troupe of volunteer puppeteers who present Kids on the Block to more than 5,000 third- and fourth-graders in Franklin and Adams counties, even stretching into Shippensburg, Pa. Through the puppets, who have assorted disabilities, the play promotes understanding and respect. Hoover says children in the audience are encouraged to ask questions, and they usually have plenty of them.

"They really have to be sharp on their feet," Hoover says of the puppeteers who answer very probing inquiries from the young onlookers.

The most recent feather added to the Franklin/Adams chapter's cap was its selection as a resource center for the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Effort. The Chambersburg office now can help the disabled find modern equipment to move them closer to independence.

"To some extent, we've become the library, if you will," Hoover says.

As Easter Seals has gained versatility in services, it also has opened its doors to all ages. While it was established as an organization to assist children with disabilities, its scope has broadened significantly.

"In the last 20 to 25 years, we've incorporated many adults," says Boyer, 50, who has been a physical therapist for Easter Seals in Waynesboro since 1970. The position was his first career job, and he hopes to hold onto it until retirement.

Boyer says 80 percent of the chapter's clients are older than 16 and younger than 70. The organization now helps people ranging in age from 4 weeks to 103 years, he says.

The children who are brought to Easter Seals generally are dealing with congenital or developmental problems, Boyer says. Many are not rolling over, crawling or walking when they should, and Easter Seals tries to help bring them to their developmental age.

Adult clients generally are seeking to correct a problem or adapt to weaknesses stemming from a variety of causes, including strokes or car accidents.

"The individual has to take control, they have to do the exercise," Boyer says of his older clients. "The little kids ... obviously the mom and dad have to be involved totally."

The organization does a limited amount of fund-raising, including selling Christmas ornaments and cookbooks, and it sponsors a golf tournament. The majority of contributions come from direct mailings, Hoover says.

In most cases, Easter Seals' services are provided for a fee, though there is a sliding scale for those with no insurance. Hoover emphasizes, however, that lack of funds is not a barrier to care.

"We don't turn anyone away," he says.

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