A few years ago, Tom Shea had a difficult choice to make. When his first career selling building materials came to an end after the market crash in 2008, Shea had to figure out his next step. He received tempting job offers from a few nonprofits, but few of them really offered an opportunity to work with people one-on-one. In the end, Shea chose to be the director of external affairs at the Mary Campbell Center, a loving home and residence for children and adults with disabilities. ”If you can find something where you can bring your heart to your job, and engage other people’s hearts, it’s very rewarding,” he said.
The Mary Campbell Center was founded in 1976 with the goal of providing a home-like atmosphere and a supportive community for people with disabilities. Currently, the center houses 67 residents of all ages and circumstances. In addition to providing a variety of therapeutic and education services for their residents, the Center also hosts a Children and Youth program and a respite program for individuals with special needs. ”It’s a remarkable place,” said Shea.
One important lesson that Shea has learned from working at the Center is that “there is no limit to what anyone can do or achieve.” Despite a number of odds, many people with disabilities are able to accomplish amazing feats. From completing marathons to flying a helicopter, residents at the MCC have achieved difficult goals. However, even small victories are something to celebrate. ”To see someone who’s never put their face in water because they’re afraid, to watching them swim to the bottom of a pool on their own…it’s allowed me to appreciated the potential that everyone has, regardless of their ability,” said Shea.
Regardless of your strengths or limitations, Shea feels that it’s a matter of your attitude and your environment. When a person is surrounded by compassion and encouragement, they become more willing to challenge themselves and take risks. The staff at the MCC “bring a joy and a presence to the residents every day,” said Shea. Conversely, working with the residents has taught Shea to see grace in every person that he meets. ”I never used to feel that the person bagging my groceries mattered,” he said. ”But now, they make my day. And I make their day.”
Want to learn more about volunteering at the Mary Campbell Center? There are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand, either behind-the-scenes or hands on. Please contact MCC’s volunteer coordinator, Sean Chandler: (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To view more photos from our Speaker & Supper event, visit our Flickr page here.