Focus on Community Membership

Dennis Rice

Alternatives has always been about collaboration, about what we share rather than what separates us. What we all share, no matter who we are, is the desire for three basics that make life worth living: a real home, real job and real relationships.

“Real” means something that is personally significant and something that reflects society’s sense of meaning and value.

Real homes are not made in institutions or “facilities.” They are real places of warmth and joy in the neighborhoods of our communities.

Real jobs are not busy-work. Real jobs are not found in sheltered workshops. Real jobs are found in the free market of the local community.

Real relationships are not formed by the payment of one person to be a “friend,” nor are they the automatic outcome of being with others who happen to share one’s disability. Real relationships are formed and nurtured naturally in the community.

At Alternatives, we are grateful for all the community has given us, and we are proud to say that we also have much to give back. The renovation of the Whitin Mill, for example, resulted in the creation of a community treasure that offers a wholly new paradigm in the integration of those with disabilities into their community. We did not merely convert a building. We created an open forum where people from all walks of life can work, learn and play.

I am sometimes asked why community-building is so important to us at Alternatives. The answer is that Alternatives will only be as strong as the community around it. For it is only in that community that we find real solutions for people with disabilities: real homes, real jobs and real relationships.