People with Special Needs Support People in Need

A man gets out of a van. Someone hands a bag of food out to him. He walks to the front door of a house, rings the bell, and waits. When a woman answers the door, he hands the food to her, and stands chatting.

She’s happy to receive the Meals on Wheels delivery. He’s happy to be helping. This man is one of the 28 people who attend the L.C. Dill Center, a community support program for people with intellectual disabilities. Twice a week he and his team deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound individuals in Skowhegan.

DSCF9034Some members of the team are employees of the Center, but most are people with intellectual disabilities. “Everybody has always helped them, and now they get to give back and help other people,” said Tammy Worth, Team Leader of the L.C. Dill Center.

The Center is one of the five community support sites and 17 residential and home-based programs run by SKILLS, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities achieve their goals.

“One of the enrichments it provides for people is camaraderie, friendship,” said Pam Erskine, Director of Program Services at SKILLS, Inc.

Some of these friendships have been growing for a long time. A few long-time attendees have been going to the Dill Center for nearly 30 years. The Center hosts SKILLS, Inc.’s oldest Special Olympics Team. Formerly called the Dill Pickles in playful reference to the center, the 18 athlete team is now called the River Hawks.

But the Special Olympics is just a small part of what the L.C. Dill team does. They attend the center to learn life skills and to become a part of the community. The program provides guidance on handling money, nutrition, fitness, cooking, computer skills, and work skills, while offering opportunities for paid work and community service, like the Meals on Wheels program.

“You walk in and it’s a team,” Worth said. “We’re all here doing things together.”DSCF9017

Many team members help to sort donations for the Skowhegan Thrift Store at 78 Water Street. Proceeds from the store help fund the L.C. Dill Center and other SKILLS programs. When they have too much of any one item donations can be passed on to other organizations, such as Trinity Men’s Shelter or the local animal shelter.

Periodically, the team takes gently used children’s books to local schools and sells them at book fairs for a quarter or fifty cents. “It helps the kids see the people we serve in a good light,” Worth said, and the team loves hanging out with the kids.

“I have this group of people here that want normal lives and want fulfilled lives,” Worth said.

Erskine added, “We give back to the community. People with disabilities don’t just take. When people come to us and they’re searching for something, we want to help find it.”