Disability Services Resource Center is expanding its offerings in the Great Lakes Bay Region

Keeping track of your 2022 appointments on an old-school paper calendar could help Bay County people with disabilities get ramps, medical equipment and more.

Since 1933, the Disability Services Resource Center (DSRC) has been helping people with temporary and permanent disabilities.

The DSRC is selling 2022 calendars created by its clients.The DSRC, based at 1820 N. Trumbull Drive, organizes volunteers to build ramps, maintains a no-cost loan closet for durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers, offers an adaptive sports program, and provides disability awareness training. Most recently, the DSRC took over the Camp Meadows, Greener Pastures, and Open Fields camp programs for kids with special needs from the YWCA.

Executive Director Gail Frahm says it all happens on a shoestring budget.

She writes grants and accepts donations from individuals and businesses to provide these services. Before COVID-19 restrictions forced cancelations, the agency’s biggest fundraisers were a golf scramble and in-person silent auction. She was able to offer the silent auction online, but it didn’t generate as many dollars as in the past.

To help make up the gap, the DSRC is offering a 15-month calendar featuring artwork by the people the agency serves. The January 2022-March 2023 calendars are $10 each and available online. 

The calendar’s purpose goes beyond raising money for the organization, Frahm adds. Creating the calendars also created much-needed social connections for the people the DSRC serves.

Last January, Frahm got a $250 grant from the Michigan Community Service Commission in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteer projects. The grant stipulated the projects must be COVID safe. Frahm used the money to buy art supplies and made no-contact deliveries to interested participants. Then, she set up virtual meetings for the artists, a volunteer teacher, and DSRC staff to work together.

“They could see each other for the first time in a year, literally, for many of them,” Frahm remembers. “It was just so heartwarming.”

Twice a year, the Disability Services Resource Center holds a ramp-building blitz in the community.Afterward, she gathered the artwork and picked out 15 to feature in the calendar. Then, Frahm got grants from the Noon Optimist Club and SC Johnson to print the calendars. She printed 250 in mid-November and already sold about 175.

“It’s just been an awesome, awesome opportunity,” Frahm says.

Helping people with social connections and providing the goods and services they need are at the heart of the DSRC mission. It’s difficult to put a price tag on what the DSRC does for the community since volunteers provide many of the services, such as building as many as 10 accessible ramps in a single day.

The Medical Loan Closet doesn’t charge for what it offers to people. But Frahm says the total value of the 937 items loaned out so far in 2021 adds up to more than $200,000. 

“The blessing for us and those in need is that many of the items were donated, are only needed for a short period of time, and they can be brought back and loaned out over and over again,” Frahm says.

Going forward, Frahm has big plans for the organization.

On Dec. 1 at 5 p.m., the DSRC will light a pine tree near its office for National Christmas Lights Day. Santa will make an appearance and lead the audience in carols. Hot chocolate, wassail, and cookies will be served.

The agency offers an adaptive sports program to let people of all abilities and with special needs join teams and experience the thrill of victory.In 2021, the DSRC took over Camp Meadows, Greener Pastures, and Open Fields from the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region. For 39 years, the YWCA offered the special needs camps to people 5 and older in the area. However, as the YWCA’s mission has evolved, it decided to offer the DSRC the chance to take over the camps.

“The plan was to try to start them last year, but COVID canceled camps,” Frahm says.

Instead, the DSRC got scholarships from area businesses and nonprofit organizations to offer mini camps in the summer of 2021.

“We had the opportunity to do a little bit last year with some kids,” Frahm says. “Hopefully, this next year we can really roll it out full scale and have a dozen or more kids enrolled in each of the three programs again.”

Like everything else, though, the camps need funding.

“We just, unfortunately, don’t have that many huge donors. Don’t get me wrong. We appreciate every dollar,” Frahm says.