BERLIN – Berlin officials this week did their small part to help the Worcester County Developmental Center, which saw its headquarters in Newark burn to the ground earlier this month, donating $250 to the effort to rebuild a new facility for the agency.
The Berlin Mayor and Council on Monday voted unanimously, with Councilman Dean Burrell absent and Councilman Gee Williams abstaining, to contribute $250 in relief funds to the Worcester County Developmental Center. Williams recused himself from the vote because he is an employee of the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, which has pledged to match donations dollar for dollar up to $10,000 for the center.
Town officials were asked to contribute money on behalf of Berlin for the center as part of their regular agenda on Monday. Councilwoman Paula Lynch said the town has a policy against donations but should make an exception in this case because of the organization’s contributions to the community.
“I know we try to steer away from too much of this, but this is a disaster situation here,” she said. “They desperately need help.”
With that, Lynch made a motion to donate $250 on behalf of the town to the developmental center with the understanding the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore would match the donation. Plans were already in the works for a new facility for the center before the fire early this month that destroyed its existing facility in Newark, and Lynch suggested the fire could come as a blessing in disguise in the long run for the organization.
“They’ve been trying to get a new facility for the longest time,” she said. “This might end up being the best thing that ever happened for them.”
The Worcester County Developmental Center provides services to nearly 100 developmentally disabled individuals in the county and across the Lower Eastern Shore. Its clients, all over age 21, learn work and life skills at the non-profit center, which enables them to integrate into society and lead productive lives.
The center’s headquarters was completely destroyed by fire on Sept. 3, but no disabled clients were in the facility at the time. About a dozen staff members were on hand for an in-service training day but no one was injured. Six local volunteer fire companies responded and remained on the scene for almost four hours.
The effort was complicated by the lack of water in Newark as firefighters were forced to extract water from a nearby lagoon to help fight the blaze. The county has since reopened a discussion about a new water tower in Newark.