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Devereux makes a profound difference in lives

By BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON
Dec. 9, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.

Charla Borchers Leon

This time of year draws us near to one another in our lives and hearts. We are thankfully at home within our communities, among our friends and in our own families. The same holds for a larger family with an even larger home and with hugely caring hearts - within the Devereux Foundation community and, specifically in Devereux Texas with closest proximity to home at Devereux Victoria.

In the year 1912, Miss Helena Devereux, a young Philadelphia school teacher well ahead of her time, recognized the impact of personalized attention for "special" children with the creation of an organization devoted to teaching and nurturing individuals with special needs. Over the past 100 years, that small single classroom has evolved into a multifaceted national organization where dedicated staff inspire hope in its special needs community of 15,000 from 43 states and five foreign countries, with care from more than 6,000 professionals nationwide. Individuals across the country with developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges find that with empowered lives "they are somebody" who is far happier and healthier than anyone thought possible a century ago.

At Devereux campuses across the nation, small steps become huge milestones when neglected, abused and silent children begin to trust again when someone cares to inspire learning skills in a safe and welcoming setting in a classroom, on a field trip or at a supervised, campuswide prom. There is no equal measure to the powerful expression of a smile appearing on the face of a child with autism who smiles at his or her mother for the very first time. Equally as profound may be the awarding of a first paycheck that an adult challenged with developmental disabilities draws for work well done in community employment that makes him or her realize "I am somebody" in this world.

As a member of the South Texas Advisory Council at the Devereux Victoria campus since its inception almost eight years ago and as its chairwoman the past two years, I have witnessed profound experiences with Devereux clients and staff. I have seen and heard carefully choreographed footsteps and angelic voices of challenged children dancing and singing from calculated command for the enjoyment of others. I have viewed artwork of deep expression from within those who might not otherwise communicate with the world had it not been for trained staff who helped bring out emotions and expression with pen or brush.

I have been on the receiving end of adult clients greeting the community with extended hands of thanksgiving for the facilities they consider their lifelong home. I am witness to and proud to help support the work of clients who help plant and care for living plants and make the delectable food items available for purchase at Devereux Gardens. These eyewitness accounts have resulted in heartfelt testimonials from parents and family members locally and at Devereux corporate events around the country who openly and voluminously express gratitude for what Devereux has done to help keep their family intact with a child who has behavioral challenges.

Devereux's half century impact on the Victoria community was commemorated with its '50s diner theme celebration created in the heart of downtown Victoria three years ago. And just last month, Devereux's nationwide 100th anniversary gala celebration took place on the steps of the fabulous Museum of Art in the heart of the city of Philadelphia when corporate, elected and individual sponsors were rank in file with devoted foundation staff from 14 campuses across the country. I was privileged to be a part of both of these events in support of the cause of Devereux that heralds unparalleled successes of the past and optimism for the future.

As Devereux concludes its turning 100 years old this month, it is 100 years young in a society more openly aware and accepting of disability issues that affect many families across this country. In acknowledgement of the gifts of home and family, join with me this holiday season with a gift to Devereux to support its mission built on generosity of heart, spirit and resources. You will touch a heart at Devereux Victoria in the spirit of this holiday season.

Charla Borchers Leon is the chairwoman of the South Texas Advisory Council. To learn more about Devereux, readers may contact Sandra Neely, development officer, at 361-575-8271 or by emailing sneely2@devereux.org.

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