Hollywood, MD – An organization that has been growing and evolving in the Southern and Central regions of Maryland for a quarter of a century continues to overcome challenges. They aim to help individuals whose challenges might seem overwhelming. Bay Community Support Services (BAY-CSS) Executive Director Mitzi Bernard has been with the organization since the time it was the Service Committee of United Cerebral Palsy of Maryland. In 2011, the agency, which serves St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel, Charles and Calvert counties, came to be known as BAY-CSS. While its main office is still in Anne Arundel County, BAY-CSS has a unique facility and presence in St. Mary’s.

The organization’s mission is to provide service for individuals with disabilities.
“We change lives, we do incredible things,” Bernard told The BayNet during a recent interview. While one focus of BAY-CSS is helping area residents with intellectual disabilities, it also works to aid individuals with developmental disabilities. Maryland’s Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), which is part of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, works with regional organizations—including BAY-CSS—to provide services to as many individuals as possible. The task is daunting, and currently, statewide DDA reports over 10,800 people on its waiting list. Just over 3,350 of those individuals reside in Southern Maryland.

Aiding residents with developmental disabilities, Bernard indicated, benefits the whole community by contributing good employees to the workforce. As explained on the BAY-CSS web site, “services are provided to individuals who have different levels of abilities and who need different levels of assistance. Employees are trained to meet the individualized needs of each person. Services are provided to people who have intellectual disabilities, autism, behavioral needs, blindness/severe visual impairments, cerebral palsy, head injuries, severe hearing impairments, epilepsy/seizure disorders, orthopedic needs, specific learning disabilities, speech/language impairments, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries and other neurological disabilities.”

Bernard said the organization is presently working with around 70 businesses. The individuals who find jobs through BAY-CSS “bring lots of skills” to the local job sites, she added. In addition to identifying jobs and facilitating training, BAY-CSS also helps to provide transportation.

“For us, transportation is a huge issue,” said Bernard. While public transportation helps some, it’s always a major challenge in a rural area. And so, BAY-CSS also has a fleet of vehicles for transporting clients. Many of the vehicles, which vary in size, have considerable mileage on them but immediate replacement remains a problem due to lack of funds.

In fact, the state does not provide funding that is adequate to cover the costs of BAY-CSS’ programs. Therefore, BAY-CSS does seek a variety of state, federal and foundation grants. They also seek and accept donations—their web site includes a “wish list” of items that are needed. Additionally, BAY-CSS does fundraising and one of their biggest events is coming up in September. The organization’s 11th annual golf tournament is scheduled for Sept. 12 at The Golf Club at South River off Route 2 (Solomons Island Road) in Edgewater. Brandy Blackstone, BAY-CSS communications manager, explained the event organizer has four major sponsors—The Brick Companies, Administrative and Consulting Solutions Inc., Annapolis Yacht Sales and Puzon Associates. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are still available. 

Blackstone added there’s a way for participants to obtain a special entry fee price. “In honor of Bay-CSS’ 25th Anniversary serving individuals with disabilities in Maryland, we’re offering 25 percent off registration before Aug. 31 with Promo Code BAYNT5.

For more information and to register, golfers are asked to visit www.baycss.org/golf.html

Other fundraising events include the Annual BAY-CSS Walk, Run and Roll. That event, held in April provides a day of fun and activity for all the stakeholders, including individuals who are wheelchair-bound.

Which brings us back to BAY-CSS’ almost new St. Mary’s County/Southern Maryland location—Greenwell State Park in Hollywood. Bernard explained that the Greenwell Foundation provides the park as a special place for people with disabilities with activity facilities that are handicapped accessible. “The park is cool,” said Bernard.

Of the many programs BAY-CSS handles, one of the greatest success stories is the 12 group homes the organization oversees. Blackstone the organization’s clients who occupy the independent-living locations “develop friendships and support each other.” She added there is also a waiting list for those who wish to live in one of the homes.

For more information about BAY-CSS, visit their web site www.baycss.org or Facebook page.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com