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As the days remaining in 2017 are quickly flying by, let us take a few moments to reflect on a wonderful year that was full of change and growth for Coastal Center for Developmental Services.

New Executive Director Dr. Ken Boyd was no stranger to the agency when he accepted his new role. Previously serving on the CCDS and Quantum Boards of Directors, as well as the Business Advisory Council, his decade-long service made for a smooth transition. Eager to meet the public in his new role, Dr. Boyd met families, providers, and community partners of CCDS and found himself a willing interviewee on TV talk shows, two features in the Savannah Morning News, and numerous speaking engagements to share his vision for the future of CCDS.

Long-time CCDS staffers, former Executive Director Kathy Thomson, Case Manager Mark Bartell, and Day Habilitation Program Supervisor Yvonne Cook all retired in 2017. All dynamic leaders, each made a tremendous and positive impact on the organization and the individuals served at CCDS, and we are grateful for their many years of service. While a few longtime staff said farewell in 2017, new leaders rose to give their fullest to the agency.

The Emerging Leaders, a group of younger staff committed to agency growth, went for training early in the year, and returned with great ideas for the agency. Meeting regularly, inducting new members, and participating in various committees across the agency, the Emerging Leaders offer the promise of innovative ideas and a strong commitment to the advancement of the agency.

The social enterprise businesses in the Training Center had many reasons to celebrate. Catering engagements hit an all-time high with Chef Angie Real’s team providing food at grand openings, including the Demere Center and Ghost Coast Distillery, and food events like the Food and Wine Festival, where CCDS Catering won the award for Best Presentation. The weekly meals-to-go offerings continued to attract a devoted following and the culinary team developed Marvelous Munchables, a collection of designer cookies and tasty nibbles, which quickly became a favorite snack and were included in many of the gift baskets sold by Bluffton, South Carolina’s Aunt Laurie’s. These new product lines and relationships gave our individuals a wide variety of opportunities to learn valuable culinary skills, and some trainees were able to put those skills to work in new culinary-related community jobs!

Promotional Printing struck gold by developing its own designs to put on merchandise. The Savannah Crab, Tybee Sea Turtle, and Southern Christmas Tree images were clever designs made of local words uniquely formed in the shape of the objects. Imprinted on note cards, t-shirts, towels, tote bags, and more, their popularity only grew throughout the year giving our trainees many opportunities to print on different products and build new skills. Local artist and celebrity Ashley Borders brought her Lovelution brand to the team to not only print and tag, but also design. A handful of artists served by CCDS created and printed original designs, which Borders continues to sell online.

In Packaging Assembly, the need for mobile crews increased for logistics and warehouse jobs. Short and long-term crews went out to sites throughout the year, introducing off-site training to dozens of program participants. In addition to physical exercise to build stamina, instructors focused a portion of each day to teaching important soft skills relevant to working in a training center, volunteer opportunity, or a job site.

Early in the year, Specialized Assembly renewed its 3-year quality control certificate, allowing CCDS to continue to produce complex wiring assemblies for one of the world’s largest aeronautics manufacturer. The commitment to excellence of the individuals training in Specialized Assembly continues to leave visitors in awe when they observe their precision. Trainees continue to fine-tune their skills and cross-train more frequently as they prepare for ever new challenges.

The Community Access Groups (CAG) continued to grow in number, making more of an impact on the community. CAG’s work with Meals on Wheels was recognized by Senior Citizens for their 5-day a week delivery commitment, and a party was thrown on their behalf. Other creative activities included water aerobics, yoga, pottery making, and many additional opportunities for volunteer work were ways that participants connected to the community in the CAG program. Investing time in the community yielded new relationships across town for the participants, and a united sense of pride emerged among the volunteers.

Community Employment continued to open doors and found employers were more than willing to hire. Prepared by Job Seekers, or the year-long internships through Project SEARCH, individuals seeking community work were able to effortlessly move into jobs in hospitality, warehousing, childcare, and office work. Seventeen new employers found out that people with different abilities fit perfectly into their workforce, creating seventy-seven new jobs which were filled by eager workers. The variety of new jobs matched the varied interests and skills of the new workers who are entering the working world seamlessly with unparalleled abilities and expertise.

CCDS proudly showcased our individuals and our facilities throughout the year by giving tours to a wide variety of visitors. Guests were consistently impressed by the quality programs and training, in addition to the focus and enthusiasm of the individual participants. Commissioners for the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture both visited the agency in the early fall and gave their hearty approval for what they experienced. In December, CCDS played host to the Chatham Delegation of local representatives and senators, as they held a day-long pre-legislative forum for local groups and businesses hoping to be heard before the Legislative Session. CCDS leadership led a tour of our programs and gave a presentation to the legislators to share the needs of local people with developmental disabilities.

With the focus on community employment for individuals with developmental disabilities taking center stage nationally, CCDS will continue to empower adults with developmental disabilities in our area who are seeking a job in the community. Our commitment to providing pre-vocational training opportunities remains strong for those striving to be the best they can be. By continuing to employ the abilities of every person served, CCDS will continue to enhance and empower lives.

Thank each of you who have taken Coastal Center for Developmental Services into your hearts this year. We invite you to continue to invest in the lives of the people we serve in the New Year. Join us for what promises to be an exciting 2018 filled with stories of empowerment and success!