A group of parents in North Louisiana weren’t thinking about changing the world when they approached the Presbyterian Church for help in the 1950s. They were the parents of young men with intellectual disabilities, and all they wanted was a summer camp for their sons. They hoped that the church could help make that happen.
The parents didn’t know that 1,400 miles away, in Staten Island, New York, 60 healthy children living in an institution for people with disabilities were being fed a live hepatitis virus by a researcher from New York University. They didn’t know that this researcher watched as their skin and eyes turned yellow and their livers got bigger. He watched them vomit and refuse to eat. He watched them all become ill.
Caption: Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, now infamous for their horrific treatment of people with intellectual disabilities, did not close until 1987. A New York University Researcher conducted hepatitis experiments on healthy children at Willowbrook from the late 1950s-1970s. (Photo: NY Daily News)
The parents didn’t know that 10 years later there would be a young TV reporter who would act on a tip about abuse in an institution in Chester County, Pennsylvania. They didn’t know that tears would well in their eyes as images of emaciated individuals, covered in filth, swaying back and forth and curled up in balls flashed on their TVs.
All the parents knew was that their sons deserved better than an institution.
Sixty years ago the world changed for four men and their parents.
It happened in the small Evergreen community in Northwest Louisiana. And it happened because the Presbyterian Church took the parents’ vision and turned it into a reality greater than they could ever imagine.
The parents didn’t know that 60 years later, the organization that had changed their worlds would go on to change the worlds of thousands of people with disabilities and their families. They didn’t know that Evergreen would work with states to move people from institutions into community homes. Homes in family neighborhoods with fireplaces, front porches and cozy living rooms.
The parents didn’t know that local businesses would rally around the people served by Evergreen. That they would offer them job opportunities, a sense of purpose and a level of financial independence. They didn’t know that decades later, some individuals served by Evergreen would purchase their own homes after years of working and saving.
The parents didn’t know that hundreds of individuals with no involved family members would come to be served by Evergreen. And that these individuals would be welcomed into the homes of staff members for every holiday, birthday and family celebration. They didn’t know that these staff members would open their hearts and wallets without being paid an extra penny.
The parents didn’t know that generations of complete strangers would see the specialness of Evergreen and choose to support us. That you would support the little ministry that grew into a national provider for people with disabilities. They don’t know you, but here you are, keeping their dream alive.
The parents of Evergreen’s first residents didn’t know they were changing the world, but we know now that they did. And like our founding families, Evergreen is bold – bold enough to know that with your help we can and will change the world.
YOU are the difference between the past and the present.
The more than 1,100 people served by Evergreen count on your generosity to live their best lives – one filled with opportunities, choices and dignity.
In honor of 60 years of exemplary service, we need your help to raise $60,000.
Would you be willing to make a contribution? Your donation will be put to work right away, offering more opportunities to the people we serve, making urgent repairs and upgrades to our community homes, providing critical medical care and so much more.
Can we count on you this holiday season to make lasting and positive changes in the worlds of thousands of people with disabilities?