INDIAN ORCHARD – At 64, Bill Bragdon is an example of what it means to take life’s challenges and turn them into catalysts for positive change.
An adult with developmental disabilities who is served by the Residential Services division of The Association For Community Living in Springfield, Bragdon’s longtime friend and housemate passed away on April 11, 2013.
“Bill had always relied on his housemate to make decisions around what they did and where they went,” said Jeanette Gilmartin, a residential program manager with The Association For Community Living. “He seldom expressed his own opinion or did any activity that his housemate didn’t want to do.”
“The passing left Bill living alone, but it has only made him stronger,” Gilmartin said in nominating Bragdon for an Achievement Award in June at the agency’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony.
She described Bragdon as a shy person who seldom expressed his own needs, but said this year, he assisted in The Association’s toy drive for Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, and “he has attended and participated in various community activities.
“He even flew to see his sister in March despite not having been on a plane in years,” Gilmartin added.
For personal growth, Bragdon received his achievement award to a backdrop of proud smiles and enthusiastic applause when over 300 board members, staff, volunteers, supporters and those in greater western Massachusetts who are served by The Association came together for the agency’s annual recognition event.
“While he still has some apprehension about this big change in his life, he is now able to express the concerns to his staff and manager, allowing them to relieve his fears,” Gilmartin said. “His voice has become strong, and he is far less hesitant to speak up.”
Also at the annual meeting, Executive Director Barbara Pilarcik presented several dozen other achievement and anniversary awards to agency programs and highlighted outstanding contributions of staff and community members.
“Every day, day in and day out, our staff are in our communities doing good work. Their actions and deeds overwhelm prejudice, doubt and fear,” Pilarcik said. “These are the people who fulfill our mission each and every day and who, together with persistence and resilience, have overwhelmed the world with their good work.”
Pilarcik also held a moment of silence for 16 friends of The Association who died in the past year, including Judge Sidney Cooley of Longmeadow, who died in January at age 100.
She said of the friends, many of whom were also donors, “They often led the way in showing communities how to accept a child who may be more challenged than some, but no less gifted. Their courage in standing up and stepping up has left us much better off.”
For more information about the services and programs of The Association For Community Living, visit www.theassociationinc.org.
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The Association For Community Living has been Creating Opportunities, Building Relationships and Improving Lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities since 1952. Founded by the dedicated commitment of five young mothers of children with developmental disabilities who held a strong belief that their children had the same right as all other children—the right to live and grow with dignity in their own communities—The Association continues their vision today.
Our beginnings were modest and deeply rooted in Hampden County. Today, our reach extends to all of Western Massachusetts and parts of Central Massachusetts, supporting 1,116 individuals with autism, Down syndrome, fragile X, and other developmental disabilities and 760 families in 77 cities and towns with offices in Springfield, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hadley and Pittsfield.
We provide services that are many and varied, forming a continuum of support from infancy to old age with comprehensive services in five major areas - supported living, family services, employment services, social entrepreneurship, and recreation and enrichment. Additionally, we are recognized as a well-managed, fiscally responsible nonprofit agency with a budget of $27.5 million.
In October 2013, The Association was named in the Top 10 of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield Super 60 in the total revenue category.