In the last six months, their day programs have either been taken away or cut down to one day a week. Kandu closed down last fall, and CBI and CBO programs are once a week. What are these hundreds of people to do with their time the rest of the week?
These same people have been well taken care of for many years. It all began in the late 1960s when a small group of parents got together and rented an old one-room schoolhouse in Spring Lake Township. They fixed it up and hired a teacher for seven or eight special-needs kids. As the years went by, it grew swiftly. We sold cans of candy and other things to raise money for the project. We were eventually helped by the Haven Foundation, a non-profit group, to help these people get trained to function in the community. It continued for many years. As time went on, the Special Olympics started. This too was a wonderful experience for them.
All these years, Kandu Industries has offered those who qualified an employment in a sheltered workshop. This gave these people a sense of earning money like their parents, sisters and brothers. They didn’t care that it was a small amount, but they felt important because “they had a job.”
Eventually, the parent group worked to get a millage passed so the public school system would provide help for these kids. It finally passed and they were put into many different school buildings that weren’t being used in Ottawa County. Years later, the Ottawa Area Center was built. This too was a wonderful facility for many of the younger people.
Why are we letting these people down as they’ve grown older?
Fran Buikema (mother of Susan, who is 59 and has Down syndrome)