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Watkins works hard to stay positive

December 09, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Faced with daily struggles of mobility, tight finances and government red tape, Joshua Watkins works hard to keep active, useful and positive.

"I'm disabled, but I won't let it get me down," said the 23-year-old who was born with cerebral palsy.

Watkins lives independently in an apartment on West Baltimore Street in this small, close-knit town. Living on SSI (Supplemental Security Income through the Social Security Administration) because of his disability, Watkins nonetheless always has tried to get work whenever he can.

"I worked at a retail store for about a year, but I couldn't get enough hours to make it worthwhile," Watkins said. "I would like to work more hours, but I'm prohibited by government regulations."

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Watkins said if he works more hours than allowed, he is penalized and loses some of his monthly SSI allotment. Already living on a tight budget, he said he can't afford to lose that money.

"I have to go to local food banks. I'm not ashamed to say that because I need it to get by," Watkins said.

With little available to him in the workplace, Watkins keeps busy in other ways. During the Christmas season, he has been creating Christmas presents for family and friends.

Latch-hook projects are scattered around Watkins' living room. He also quilts with the help of his two grandmothers, Patsy DeGrange and Jeannette Watkins.

"I do the squares and they put them together," he said.

His first quilt took him a year to finish, but he is very proud of it.

Watkins also has been an active social member of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. for about two years.

"I help with bingo, make posters on my computer and answer the telephones when the firefighters are all out on calls," he said.

Before moving to Funkstown three years ago, Watkins lived in the Williamsport area, where he was active with its fire company.

Born in Baltimore, Watkins later moved to Frederick County, Md., and attended schools in Walkersville, Brunswick and Middletown.

"There, I worked telethons for the United Cerebral Palsy," he said.

He earned his high school diploma from Williamsport High School in 2000.

"I was also schooled at home and in night school to finish up after I had hip surgery," Watkins said.

With still more time to volunteer in his new community, Watkins went up to Funkstown Town Hall this spring, hoping there was something there he could do.

"I ended up volunteering to help with the town picnic," Watkins said.

He said he enjoyed that event in late April, even after his wheelchair got stuck in the mud on the unseasonably wet and cold day.

Watkins gets around most places in town by wheelchair. Public transportation for the disabled also is available, but not always when he wants to go somewhere.

"I really enjoy going up to Town Hall to see those two great ladies there," Watkins said, referring to Town Clerk Brenda Haynes and Town Secretary Kelli Roser.

Haynes said Watkins is a terrific person who always is willing to help whenever he can.

"I want to be doing something all the time. That's just the way I am," Watkins said. His only "downtime" is on Sundays during football season.

"Sundays are mine," Watkins said as he relaxed in a chair with a Washington Redskins blanket on the back.

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