BRIDGTON — George Ricker, one of the original founders of the Progress Center, addressed the staff and management of the center at a retreat held recently at Shawnee Peak.

Ricker told about how he and his wife worked at Pineland where she started their first group home. Later he took a position in Westbrook where he taught the only handicapped class in the city. He said when he arrived to teach in the Oxford Hills he was amazed to find there were three classes.

However, he said, it was evident that once a developmentally challenged child became an adult and left the public school system there were no services available.

A group of parents of developmentally challenged children joined forces and in 1967 they formed the Southern Oxford County Association for Retarded Children Inc. Their first venture with a group home was a learning experience, Ricker said, and as soon as the right person was found to run the home things ran fairly smoothly. He said, “Eager and pushy is what it took.”

Ricker said embracing change is necessary to succeed. He told the staff to “appreciate new ideas; we all hate changes but we all have to make changes.” Over the years the program grew and expanded and in 1986 it was incorporated as the Progress Center.

Today the center serves more than  160 adults and children with developmental disabilities. Ricker said its mission is dedicated to promoting the highest level of independence and personal freedom for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on the center and its programs and services, call Priscilla at 743-8049, ext. 23.

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