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Dennis W. Felty President, KHS
Keystone Human Services, Annual Meeting 2003
November 17, 2004
Last month I was in Moldova visiting two of our interns Svetlana Capatina and Liliana Barbaneagra. The purpose of the visit was to make a decision as to whether we would go forward with two projects in their home villages of Tudora and Brinza. Both Tudora and Brinza are old style Soviet farming villages.
Our International Interns usually spend their junior year with us. At the end of their internship we help them to develop a proposal of what they would like to do in their home country when they complete their academic work and graduate. We talk to the interns about how one person can make a difference and the importance of holding a vision of a better world. We tell the story of the beginnings of Keystone when Janet Kelly was teaching courses in institutional change at the Harrisburg State Hospital with the purpose of radicalizing some of the young staff of the hospital. Janet had us do proposals and Mel Knowlton came out to meet with us and offered to fund one of our proposals to create a home in the community. We talk about how their proposals, like Keystone’s first proposal, can, over time, make a difference in the lives of people in their community.
Liliana and Svetlana are our first interns to finish their senior year and graduate. Vitallii Ciornii, also one of our 2002 interns, is now the Executive Director of Keystone Human Services International – Moldova. Vitalii and I were staying with Svetlana’s family in Brinza. On Sunday night it was clear that the decision was going to be a yes. In Keystone’s 31 years there have been a series of yes’s that, over time, have had great consequence and have framed the mission and capacity of the organization. This was clearly one of those yes’s and with each yes comes an awesome responsibility. A yes requires a commitment for the long term, a commitment to be there to see the difficult times through and find a better way.
I had in mind that I would meet with Svetlana in the morning and make a job offer and we would talk about duties, the program and compensation. When it was time to meet, I was expecting to meet privately with Svetlana, however her whole family sat down at the table, her mother, her father and 5 of her 7 brothers and sisters. They were expressing a great commitment to the covenant we were about to enter into. Her mother took meticulous notes in Romanian about the program and the accountabilities and our joint vision of how thing might be different in their village.
I think of all the yes’s I have participated in over the years. For me, this one has felt like it has great significance and substance. I shared with the Capatina family the story of how the same number of people sat around a table at the Harrisburg State Hospital, said yes and shared in the same covenant being considered at their dining room table, 31 years later and 14,000 miles to the East.
This Covenant – A binding agreement, or compact, made by two or more persons brings obligations to all participants. For Keystone it is the point at which an idea or an intent gets real and there is an obligation to find the means to transform a concept into something that is real and will have consequence.
Within our understanding of a Covenant, is an obligation to be there for the long term. This is particularly important for persons who because of autism, chronic mental illness, mental retardation of physical disability will need services and supports for the entirety of their life. We talk about this quality as being an enduring organization, providing the vision, structure, governance, planning, systems, capital base, and expertise necessary to be there for the duration, for many for the life time a person who needs care and supports.
This issue is especially pertinent today. In Pennsylvania there are over 14,000 men and women between 45 and 55 years of age with mental retardation who are living at home with elderly parents. Like many of us here this evening, they are the Baby Boomers, the progeny of the returning soldiers of WWII. Current projections are that 6,800 of these individuals will need residential services by 2011 and 7,000 will need significant in home supports by 2008. It is estimated that the cost of these services in Pennsylvania will exceed 700,000,000 dollars. Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and every other state has similar needs.
I have had the opportunity to work with many of these very wonderful families. Their greatest concern is; who will look after my son or daughter when I am gone. Many are beginning to make plans, including choosing the community organization they want to assume responsibility when they are no longer able to continue the care that some of them have provided for 50 and 60 years.
The covenant between us and these families carries the same awesome responsibilities and is part of the same compact entered into at the Harrisburg State Hospital and, more recently, in Brinza.
One of the elements of the covenant is mutuality. In Moldova people ask why you are here; they want to understand your motives. This question was asked by the Mayor in Brinza. I explain how, Liliana and Svetlana provided very committed and loving care to American citizens who are severely disabled and that, we believe, by working together we can help the people of both countries to have a better life.
At the core of the covenant is the people who both enter into the covenant and who carryout its work on a minute by minute, day by day basis in the lives of the people we support. It is expressed in the voice, in the touch and in the eye. As an organization we are no more and no less than the extraordinary people who carry out the work and touch the lives of so many people.
The same demographics that will cause 14,000 new persons to need services will also impact America’s work force. The children of the returning soldiers of WWII will begin retiring in 2006. For the first time in the history of the country, the work force will begin to decline. Assuming a conservative 3% annual growth rate in the economy and immigration of 1,000,000 workers a year, we will have a shortfall of workers that will approach 21,000,000 by 2020. And to make things even more interesting, at the same time the Baby Boomers will begin needing more services, supports and long term care, placing additional demands on the direct care workforce. At this point there will just not be enough workers to fill all the jobs and the national employment market will become a sellers market, the likes of which our country has never seen.
To honor our long term covenant to the thousands of persons that are part of Keystone we will need workers with the passion, skills and commitment in sufficient numbers to continue the work. We will of course have to be competitive in the labor market, with careful and continuing attention to compensation, benefits, training and quality of work life. We also expect that our international operations will provide an important resource for the recruitment of additional talented and committed employees.
Within the covenant is an obligation to work to provide adequate compensation for our Direct Support Professional staff. In Pennsylvania we estimate it will require 160,000,000 dollars to increase direct support personnel salaries to 11.00 dollars per hour. Similar projections apply to Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware. As Jennifer Allison has reported, we have joined in litigation against the Commonwealth and are working to assure a responsible human resource policy in the states in which we provide services.
The covenant needs all of us to be party to the compact. Our Board Members give generously of their time, wisdom, wealth and energy. Could we have the members of all of our boards and membership stand?
Our employees make the vision of Keystone real using their own gifts, time and freedom to work for the wellbeing and freedom of others. Can we have our employees please stand to be recognized?
The family members of our employees and board members give generously in their support of Keystone and their family member. Without this support the work would not be possible. Please stand.
Our Volunteers are critical providing thousands of hours of work, support and participation in Keystone. Will all of our volunteers please stand.
As most of you are aware our son Adam is in the 1st Marine Division and recently returned from Iraq. The World remains a dangerous place and we worry that he will have to return to Iraq in the future.
Upon entering the Capatina home in Moldova, I noticed a photograph on the side table in their living room. It was Svetlana, Liliana, Tamara, Barbara and myself in New York City in 2001. We had just visited ground zero and were on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. It has become so clear that part of the covenant is sharing the gifts of vision, of democracy, of self determination, of freedom and hope for a better future and a safer world.
We all have a vested interest in working to create a safer world. The long term financial support for all of our work is very important. However, in Moldova and Russia the resources will come from individuals and families who choose to be partners in this important work. I would like to ask each of you to consider active personal participation in our work in Moldova and Russia by providing either a one time gift or a continuing gift of support for our work on a monthly basis. A monthly gift of $10.00 will fund family visits and a social support fund for each village, a gift of $70.00 per month will fund the salary of a home visitor or a preschool teacher, a gift of $100.00 per month will fund the salary of one of our program directors or a physician for a village. Thoughtful gifts that are within the capacity of all of us here this evening will make a great difference and can truly change the world. You will be receiving a formal invitation in the very near future. I ask each of you here this evening to consider this request and, if you too find a yes, to share in this very important work.