About Skills of Central Pennsylvania
“The essence of Skills’ mission is to ensure that the people we support become the authors of their own lives. Therefore, one of my greatest priorities is to support staff (including staff and individuals learning and safety) in their roles as facilitators of this process.
Together, we are committed to helping the people we serve to: plan for their needs; choose the supports they want and need; take control of their own lives; freely express their opinions about the quality of the services they receive; and to continually revise their goals to meet changing needs.”
—David M. (Mike) Rice, Ph.D., President and CEO
Skills of Central Pennsylvania, Inc.
A Brief History of Skills
On June 20, 1960, Skills Incorporated of Centre County, a private, nonprofit organization opened its doors in Bellefonte to serve 12 Centre County citizens with disabilities. The purpose of the workshop would be two-fold: to rehabilitate workers so they can be placed in a competitive market, and as a place of employment for those who will never be able to work in the competitive market. The workshop was a multiagency undertaking. Charter members of the corporation were: Blair-Centre Branch of the PA Association for the Blind, Centre County Heart Association, and the Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Citizens.
Skills: An Idea Whose Time Had Come
The civil rights movement of the 1960s opened America’s eyes to widespread discrimination against people with disabilities. In fact, it was the enactment of the first of the major civil rights statutes that paved the way for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and later the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
As the civil rights movement gained momentum, more funding was made available for community-based services for people with disabilities. Skills of Centre County grew steadily during this time, expanding its vocational training services, and introducing both adult training and residential services. But, it was in the 1980s and 1990s that Skills truly put itself on the map, expanding into 14 counties throughout Central Pennsylvania. Skills now provides services in 16 counties.
Pioneering Service Development
Skills soon earned a reputation as a pioneer in developing comprehensive, community-based programs and services. Staff was quick to identify community needs, secure funding, and develop quality services to meet those needs. Skills also enthusiastically embraced the introduction of person-centered planning and self determination, formalizing what it had always done informally: nurturing individual strengths, talents and gifts, and providing individualized services to meet unique challenges, needs and wants. Staff also became widely recognized for their commitment to advocating for the well-being of the people they served, actively participating in local and state policy development and on interagency committees to improve the lives of people with special needs.
A Reputation for Meeting Every Challenge
No recounting of Skills history would be complete without mentioning its “can-do” attitude. The staff has built a reputation on it. Across the state, Skills is recognized for its determination in finding the right supports for everyone — particularly for those individuals other agencies hesitate to serve: people with complex physical and developmental disabilities.
As state institutions closed their doors, Skills saw opportunities to welcome people into the fold of community life — and in 2007, Skills earned the honor of being named “Provider of the Year” by the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation in York/Adams Counties.
Skills staff continues to demonstrate that, with the right supports, everyone can live in the community and enjoy a high quality of life.
Deep Roots for Future Growth
In large part, Skills owes its longevity and successes to the relationships it enjoys with many community partners and supporters. With its beginnings as a grassroots organization, Skills is now firmly interwoven within the fabric of the community.
Staff has nurtured longstanding partnerships with local government, funding agencies, businesses, schools, service clubs and other supporters. It is these relationships, built one-by-one and community-by-community, that opens doors and creates opportunities for the people we serve. These enduring partnerships demonstrate the impact of Skills mission and its dedicated, professional staff.
Together, over the past 50 years, Skills has helped build communities of caring, compassion and inclusion.
Today, Skills serves individuals in the following 16 Pennsylvania counties:
Skills provides four major categories of services:
- Residential Services
- Community Services
- Behavior Support Services
- Corporate Services
Please visit the Services page for more information about the variety of services Skills provides.