Monday, November 8, 2010

Having recently been named Humanitarian of the Year by the Pocono Mountains Chamber of Commerce, Susan Folk has a modest opinion of the designation.

"It struck me as, 'Well, isn't this the way people are supposed to be?'" said the executive director of Developmental Education Services (DES) of Monroe County.

She was honored with the award during a special Chamber of Commerce celebration last week.

"I think it would be a very difficult award to give, because I know I'm certainly not alone in what I do," she said.

Folk certainly has a lot to be proud of, however.

Her dedication to special-needs individuals has led to more opportunities for them in the Monroe County area.

Since taking on the role of executive director 17 years ago, her achievements include creating a successful community recycling program that provides jobs for those with developmental disabilities, teaming up with the Kiwanis Club of the Stroudsburgs to create a community club and holding a monthly dance for special-needs individuals at the CLU Club in East Stroudsburg.

Developmental Education Services of Monroe County offers day programs to county residents with developmental disabilities. Services include instruction in grooming and hygiene, health and physical fitness, nutrition and cooking, computer learning and social development.

"I'm always thinking, 'What can we do next that's really going to help us be part of the community?'" Folk said.

Working together
She wants people to understand those with disabilities are just like everyone else — a goal she is accomplishing by getting her clients out into their community.

The Aktion Club, a result of her partnership with the Kiwanis Club, is open to anyone who wants to join, but has provided many opportunities for special-needs people.

Earlier this year, the group raised money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. In 2005, it sent more than 100 care boxes to a developmental disabilities agency in Louisiana.

"I think the community is a better place because of us. I think now the stigma of having a disability is less than it was before," Folk said.

The Community Partners in Recycling program Folk helped start eight years ago has also been successful in getting clients into the community.

The commercial recycling program has bins in several hundred locations throughout Monroe County and provides a confidential shredding service.

Since the program began, several clients were able to move on to other jobs and out of their group homes, Folk said.

Money raised from the recycling program goes toward rent for DES's Lindbergh Avenue location, and will fund renovations to the Avenue C building.

"I just have a knack for seeing the potential in a client. It brings me such joy to see them succeed," Folk said, but it wasn't until after high school and a yearlong stint as a nurse that she realized she would enjoy working with special-needs people.

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