Coastal Opportunities, headquartered in Camden, Maine, has been assisting adults with developmental disabilities to become participating members in the social and economic community of Midcoast Maine for more than 40 years, providing a high level of service to a segment of society that is often overlooked.
Back in the 1960s, the Camden Association for Handicapped Children recognized that, in addition to their programs for young people, there was a great local need for services to developmentally disabled adults.
In the early 1970s, the Mid-Coast Activities Center was formed. Priscilla Taylor, Nancy Jackson, Sharon Kinne, and I oversaw a fledgling program consisting of about 10 adult participants. Meeting in the basement of the Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church in Rockland, we made pinecone birdfeeders, encouraged artwork, played games, and danced to “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.” Some of the participants had transportation, but we had a rotating schedule for driving some clients ourselves, including an always memorable trip with a very talkative, amusing young lady who lived in Appleton.
As that operation continued, the Board of Directors of the Mid-Coast Activities Center was working toward an expanded and more structured program. In 1971, the First Congregational Church of Camden donated use of a house on Free Street. Bob Mindell was hired and adults with developmental disabilities were well served.
In 1974, Tom Corcoran became executive director, bringing experience from a Massachusetts organization with both residential and workshop programs for its clients. Tom developed such a long list of work projects for local businesses that it was a challenge to accommodate all the requests. In 1975, the flourishing organization was renamed the Coastal Workshop.
As enrollment in the program grew to 30 or 40, the Free Street building became overcrowded, so Tibbetts Industries provided space on Limerock Street for clients to produce work on their five-punch press. In 1977, the forward-looking Camden Association for Handicapped Children arranged to purchase the Tibbetts building, which ultimately was renovated as the Thomas F. Corcoran Center we know today.
During the 1980s, when funding became available for residential facilities, the Vera Brandes Home in Thomaston was the first group home established by Coastal Opportunities. Joe Curll, who has served as executive director since 1984, was instrumental in expanding the residential program, with some structures being designed and built to meet the needs of specific individuals.
Recognizing the importance of this incredible service to both clients and their families, Coastal Opportunities renovated and built a total of six residences and also operates supported-living apartments at two locations in Camden. The program houses 32 clients. With the residences located in six different communities, Coastal Opportunities maintains a fleet of vans, most of them adapted to wheelchairs or other special needs.
Also in the 1980s, the Coastal Workshop purchased a doughnut business, renamed it Coastal Bakery, and produced immensely popular doughnuts on Willow Street in Rockland. Two staff members did the frying; clients did the sugaring, some cooking, bagging, and labeling. Even Maine Governor, John McKernan, showed up to sample the goodies.
In 2010, the Board of Directors elected to change the organization’s name to Coastal Opportunities, reflecting the fact that the clients now have many more opportunities than supervised work. Coastal Opportunities has a strong program overall but continues to deal with intermittent setbacks because of regulations that limit or eliminate funding for services, and there is now a cap on the services we can provide. Nonetheless, we will continue to work toward building on the first forty years of excellence.
—Jean Woods Boobar
We know that equality of individual ability has never existed and never will, but we do insist that equality of opportunity still must be sought.