Field uneven for Nicholson, director says

Remember a time when you were watching a Browns versus Steelers game? For Browns fans, they might have remembered a game in the 1980s when Bernie Kosar valiantly led the team to its highest point in the last 30 years. Steeler fans can recall Super Bowl wins as recently as just a few seasons ago.

Competition between the teams is scarce because one has been so successful and one is new, only here since 1999 in its current form.

Imagine that the Steelers organization also employed the referees who walk out onto the field.

When people ask me about The Nicholson Center versus Fairhaven competition, my organization is just five years old while Fairhaven has been around for decades.

Fairhaven provides far more services than its sheltered workshop program. It actually provides administrative services which ensure that residential service providers and adult day service companies are following the rules. Fairhaven is a government entity that ensures rule compliance, like referees, in a game they are competing in by operating their sheltered workshop programs.

Every time I completed a long run or a forward pass, the county was there to throw a flag on the play or bring in the state to investigate me further, like a good booth review.

I’ve spent more than 14 years working with Fairhaven and the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Twelve of those years, I worked with and sometimes against two of the superintendents.

Current Superintendent Edward Stark is an honest man who is using proper financial management, and he’s promoting individuals based on moving the services for our clients forward. I’m sad that I won’t be able to work with his team. They are night and day different from previous administrations.

The Nicholson Center still holds all of its certifications and licensures from the state. It’s in complete good standing. The list of citations at The Nicholson Center from the most recent Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities audit were about two bolts being properly secured on our buses and an employee whose human resource document had expired.

There are times when it was difficult to pay my bills. For a small business owner, I’m sure many of you can relate.

My team has saved the lives of Trumbull County citizens by spotting medical concerns and requesting medical attention. We’ve discovered sexually transmitted diseases during proper medical care in developmentally disabled adult clients who have no reason to engage in sex.

Most of our clients receive the highest paychecks they’ve ever earned, especially in our store locations. One of our clients used to earn $11 hour disassembling technology in our center in Niles.

When my friends asked me why I would run a company in these circumstances, there are two reasons that I would promptly give. The people who my company serve don’t judge people based on the gender, age, color of their skin, sexual orientation, height, weight or intelligence. The people who my company serves judge people based on the content of their character and I could spend my entire life in service to them.

The second reason is because there is change coming to the service world for adults with developmental disabilities. CMS, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, is forcing the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to adopt new rules.

Five years from now, you will see a lot more private workshops for people than you do right now in this community. The community-based employment opportunities that I offered at Tommy’s Jerky Outlet are the future of services for many people.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds for The Nicholson Center. For the people who think that the clients of TNC will simply go back to Fairhaven and there will be no loss of jobs for Niles or Warren, our primary locations, things don’t work that simply in our industry. The companies that I work with are waiting just a little while longer for me to re-open while they are negotiating with businesses that are outside of your city in case TNC doesn’t restart.

I’ve been in the newspaper, asking for money to help, trying to pull on your heart strings about helping these clients and stressing the importance of our services. I have received help from small businesses, the Warren Family Mission, and some individuals. Currently, I’ve raised a little more than $5,000, and honestly, it’s a drop in the bucket for what TNC lost and what it would take to re-open.

I grew up delivering this very newspaper as a young man on Howland Wilson Road. My diploma from Howland High School and my degree from Ohio State will carry me with pride to whatever lies before me. My best effort in this town came trying to give a better life to people who were in need. I’ll be proud of the wonderful five years I had that opportunity.

For all of the employees of The Nicholson Center past and present, thanks for your time and passion. To all of the clients and their families, thanks for making us a part of your family. To the community, God bless everyone.

Nicholson is executive director of The Nicholson Center