Our Communications and Resource Manager, Meghan, got to interview Kristie Baker, Program Developer at Keystone Community Resources, which is celebrating their 55th year of caring this year!
Kristie has been working in the developmental disabilities and Autism fields for most of her professional career. She grew up with a cousin with Cerebral Palsy, and intellectual disabilities were nothing out of the ordinary for her and her family. About 18 years ago, she started working part-time in a residential setting for another human service provider. After taking a short break from the field, she was compelled to return. Kristie started her career at Keystone Community Resources 5 years ago next month. Her first position at Keystone was to manage a brand new day program in Wyoming County. Since then, she has been promoted to a Program Developer. Within this new role, she has developed more new programs, created significant relationships with community leaders, participated in different advocacy groups, and has chaired the KCR Open, Keystone's annual golf outing, since its inception 4 years ago.
“To me, working for a human service provider that has been in business for 55 years is something truly inspiring in itself. To know that this company has survived economic stressors, political stressors, as well as the constant goal to be the most innovative is something really incredible. I feel that the company can wear this badge of honor proudly with great intent toward the next benchmark!” says Kristie.
Keystone Community Resources’ founder, Ignatz Deutsch, began serving individuals in Scranton 55 years ago. In the spring of 1964, Keystone Training and Rehabilitation Residence opened its doors, housed in the former Elks Club building in downtown Scranton. The organization provided residential services to individuals with developmental disabilities in an urban environment, giving them access to social, cultural, educational, and vocational activities in a community based setting. This was at a time when the isolated state institution was the setting of choice for people with developmental disabilities who needed residential care and support. Mr. Deutsch made Keystone a pioneer with her vision to create an environment in the community that would allow individuals to live in comfort and to grow to the fullest of their capabilities.
55 years later, Keystone consists of over 60 community homes, 26 supported living sites, and 12 family living homes located in and around the greater Scranton area. Through expansion efforts, they have been able to offer specialized programs in areas such as Prader-Willi Syndrome and Autism across Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties.
Kristie says, “I feel Keystone is unique in its offering of services because we offer such a broad range of services. Typically, if a family comes to us or an individual is referred to us, we can almost always match them with the services they need. Regardless of their functioning level or their medical needs, Keystone will likely almost always be able to embrace that individual and support them in many different aspects including residential living, day programming, clinical services, job support, and nursing care.”
Throughout her experiences at Keystone, one moment that has stayed with Katie is “something that occurred when I developed one of our newest programs in Susquehanna County. The average age of the individuals attending that program is about 40 years old and most had never experienced working or a paycheck. The first time the individuals received a paycheck was one of the most important days in their, and in my, life. Previously, this was not an experience or an opportunity for this group of people, and so this was a huge milestone.”
Kristie believes that community partnerships are one of the keys to Keystone’s success. Such partnerships make holding yearly events, such as the KCR Open possible. The proceeds from this event are given to local non-profit organizations within their service areas that have an interest in supporting their mission, which is "to provide people with Autism and developmental disabilities diverse opportunities to lead fulfilling lives." In the past, they have donated to The Seven Loaves Soup Kitchen and The Dietrich Theatre and Cultural Center. This year, they are partnering with The Friends of the Howland Preserve, a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the North Branch Land Trust to preserve the natural beauty, historical structures, and conservation value of the Howland Preserve and maintains the property for the benefit of the public. If you are interested in supporting or attending the event, you can visit http://www.KCROpen.com to learn more.
As they look forward to the future, their mission remains clear: to provide people with developmental disabilities diverse opportunities to lead fulfilling lives.