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A Word from the President

January 9, 2008

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Dennis W. Felty
Dennis W. Felty
President, KHS

As I peered through the car window at the newly-finished house among the trees, I was struck with a powerful realization: “In two days this house will become a home.” In the years since Keystone opened its first group home in 1972, I have seen many empty structures be transformed into warm and welcoming homes brimming with life – but this visit was special.

Taking a deep breath, I braced myself for the blast of winter chill as I exited the car. The air was crisp and thin as the last lingering shards of ice were shaken from branches hanging overhead. I could not wait to get inside, and I imagined how 13 people would be on this same path in the upcoming days, crossing the threshold to a real home and embodying the dreams of countless individuals who have worked tirelessly to promote active community life for all individuals.

On December 20th, 13 former residents of Harrisburg State Hospital moved from the hospital to their new home – a real home, in a real community. Their move is significant for many reasons. First, the dramatic transition from a vast, impersonal, institutionalized setting to a place that can foster a life of meaningful relationships and accomplishment is particularly poignant as we approach the holiday season and a new year.

Additionally, the gift of self-empowerment and belonging is one of the most important philosophies of community-based service. Harrisburg State Hospital is a cavernous space, a veritable maze of rooms and corridors, yet nothing truly “belonged” to the residents. When one of the residents expressed anxiety about leaving the Hospital, the program director for the new home gave him a personal tour of where he would live, showing him the space that would soon be entirely his. “This is my bedroom,” he echoed. Stopping at the bathroom mirror, he said to himself, “This is my bathroom.” After seeing that he could have structure and an individualized, comfortable setting, he told the program director, “I could live here.”

Finally, and probably most importantly, this new home is the fulfillment of a dream that has surpassed all expectations. These 13 individuals are officially the last people to leave Harrisburg State Hospital. In the earliest stages of Keystone, we imagined that we might be able to provide community care for 13 of the over 3,000 residents. Now, even the last 13 of those 3,000 are able to live in a home and create a family unit, paving the way for meaningful and full lives within – not separate from – the community.

In light of this tremendous blessing I am reminded how wonderful it is to be with others, to retreat from the cold and celebrate the holiday season surrounded by family and friends. On behalf of the entire Keystone family I wish you the happiest of holidays and thank you for the support that enables us to continually expand our vision of all people living full and meaningful lives in our community.

Dennis


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