DOVER - On March 8, 1954 a group of parents met in Durham to advocate for the needs of their children with developmental disabilities. Special education did not exist in schools. Families were told to send their loved ones to the state institutions instead. These intrepid parents formed their own school.
This was the first association in New Hampshire dedicated to children with intellectual disabilities. The group would go on to start the first special education classes in the state, play an instrumental part in closing the state institutions, and form a training center to provide employment for adults with disabilities.
This association continued to adapt over time, changing to meet the needs of individuals on the Seacoast. Sixty-five years later, it continues on as Great Bay Services.
"For six decades, Great Bay Services has helped people with disabilities live full and meaningful lives," said Executive Director Jennifer Nickerson. "Today we continue with the same level of dedication, integrity, and commitment our founding families exhibited in 1954."
Great Bay Services operates out of Dover providing community supports, and in Sanford, Maine, offering day services, employment services, case management, and independent living supports.
They provide assistance to more than 80 adults with disabilities and their families in Strafford, Rockland, and York counties.
Those who attend Great Bay Services take part in a range of activities. A wide selection of community and educational programming is available, including fitness, nutrition, music therapy, and outdoor conservation. Great Bay Services also believes in giving back to the community, volunteering regularly at local organizations including libraries, senior centers, soup kitchens, thrift stores and more.
"This population is traditionally overlooked, underserved, under-funded and under-represented," said Nickerson. "We work every day for their inclusion in our community, and to educate others of the value of people with disabilities."
Great Bay is marking its 65th anniversary at its annual gala, called Hollywood Nights. This year's event will be held on Saturday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at Spring Hill (117 Pond Road, South Berwick, ME). Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting www.greatbayservices.org; to pay by check or at the door RSVP to 603-842-5344 x18.
Businesses interested in sponsoring the event, or individuals wanting to make a donation, can contact Director of Mission Advancement Elizabeth Worboys Burr at 603-842-5344 x18.
Families seeking supports for their loved ones with disabilities are welcome to visit www.greatbayservices.org or contact Great Bay Services at 603-842-5344 in New Hampshire or 207-850-1053 in Maine.