By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire
Mike Hyland, president and CEO of Sturbridge-based Venture Community Services, has a lot to smile about this summer. The non-profit provides “support to individuals facing diverse challenges” and has become a leader in the industry. With an annual revenue of $32.7 million, a new name, 775 happy employees, 44 community residences, and a new location in Uxbridge, the business, grounded in compassion, now thrives.
Back in 1975, a caring group of citizens created a movement following a class action lawsuit filed in response to the inhumane practices of institutions housing physically and disabled people. As a result, institutionalized residents were able to move into community living. Venture Community set up the first two of its houses in 1977, in Spencer and Webster. The company had just sixteen employees at the time.
Named an Employer of Choice by the Employers Association of the Northeast due to its commitment to value employees through a compassionate workplace, Venture Community Services (formerly known as Rehabilitative Resources) is dedicated to supporting its hard-working professionals every day.
A visit to Venture’s new 11,000-square-foot home, located on Douglas Street (Route 16) in Uxbridge, and which officially opened for service in February, reflects all that it’s been commended for.
Venture Community Services purchased the building, which had been vacant for a time, in 2016, then completely gutted and renovated it for its new purpose. The date for a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. Is yet to be decided.
Designed as a resource for adults twenty-two years and older who face a wide range of clinical needs such as autism, Down’s Syndrome, and other developmental disabilities, the remodeled center, built with the hope of serving an unmet need in the Blackstone Valley area, is bright and educational.
The various rooms, painted in lively greens and soft blues, invite diverse learners via a music room, sensory room, cooking room, horticulture room, and assistive technology room, among others. Each section, directed by a site manager, holds adaptive equipment such as tablets, communication devices, lifts, swings, and specialty eating utensils.
The Venture vibe is positive and inviting. The employees, driven by Venture’s commitment to provide a “pathway to empowerment” amid a creative, person-centered environment, are happily engaged with their clients.
Venture Community Services is unique in many ways, a credit to the company’s expertise in working with medically fragile adults with disabilities. Their clinical team is comprehensive, and includes licensed social workers and behavior analysts. Furthermore, their training program is extensive. Employees participate in a mandatory 56 hours of training to start, which focuses on providing complete supports for adults with disabilities.
“I couldn’t do what I do without them,” says Hyland of his staff. “What they do on a daily basis is grueling work. I am hugely grateful for them. Massachusetts is known for education. We live in a great state when it comes to supporting special education,” he went on to say, adding that his employees seem to be “called” to do the important work that they do. Venture Developmental Specialist Jason Mador is no exception. I’ve been here almost three years. I love the individuals. That why I do it,” he said.
Mike Hyland is passionate about seeing that his employees are valued and rewarded via a Wellness Works program which includes monthly awards, workshops, contests, an annual wellness fair, and reimbursement for participation in road races or walks. Furthermore, he believes in building a partnership with the parents whom he services.
“No one knows their child better than a parent,” said Hyland, a Boston College (Communications) graduate. “Even though we have valuable knowledge and expertise, we work closely with families to best decide on what works and what doesn’t. A parent always knows best.”
Just as parents know best, so do the individuals who are able to deal with struggles on a daily basis, thanks to the support of Venture’s staff, some of who may choose to become a Shared Living provider. Mercy and Tiffany, a shared-living team, recently celebrated their compatibility during a surprise award presentation held at Venture’s main office in Sturbridge, where Mercy shared a heartfelt speech with her provider.“Tiffany is an outstanding provider because she always helps me get everything I need,” she wrote, and went on to share her gratitude for an ear-piercing excursion, special birthday celebrations, vacations and concert dates.
Aside from shared living, Venture’s programs include transportation (275 people currently receive such services), adult foster care, supported employment, autism supports, and day programs (139 people attend day habilitation programs).
The corporate office, built in 2006 at an expansive 54,000 square feet, in Sturbridge, serves as a hub for business development, marketing, training, human resources, and employee meetings
If you would like to help support Venture and enhance the quality of life for individuals facing disabilities, you may visit venturecs.org or call 508-347-8181. Support is welcomed by means of donation, volunteer time, participation in events, and/or advocacy for their community via legislative actions.
If you are a business or organization vested in special education, you may also donate adaptive equipment, or assistive technology, to the business.
Venture Community’s revenue sources include the Department of Developmental Services (74.71%), Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (9.28%), MassHealth (7.09%) and Other (8.92%).
Leaders in the industry, Venture’s mission is to enhance not only the individuals cared for, but also the lives of the people who make each of their days rewarding and more independent.
“Research shows that any child, certainly a special needs child, does better when services are in the home and school,” Hyland says. “One in eighty-eight is being diagnosed with autism so there is a need. We want to help provide life-long engagement in the Blackstone Valley. We provide structure in a way that is soft.”
Venture Community Services is at 670 Douglas Street in Uxbridge, Route 16 just off Route 146.
For more information or to request a tour, please contact:
Director of Development
Contact Mike Hyland: 774-922-1144
One Picker Road, Sturbridge, MA