Editor's Note: This is the next story in a weekly series highlighting area agencies receiving support from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Society has served local children and adults with disabilities for more than 50 years.
Over time, the society has gone from offering only therapies to providing a variety of programs serving more than 2,000 individuals. Wood County Society's mission is to maximize abilities and raise disability awareness.
Brandon Fragale, a camper with the Wood County Society’s Camp ECHO program, enjoys a horse ride in June at Cedar Lakes near Ripley. ECHO stands for Every Camper Has Opportunity.
In West Virginia, the Society serves Wood, Wirt, Jackson, Ritchie, Roane, Calhoun, Pleasants and Tyler counties, along with Washington County in Ohio.
Through the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the Society receives $18,000 as funding for its Camp ECHO (Every Camper Has Opportunity) and its Summer Speech program, with half going for each program, said Wood County Society Executive Director Jane Stephens.
"Neither program would be possible without their funding," she said of the United Way's support. "They're very generous."
This year's Camp ECHO was held in June at Cedar Lakes in Ripley. A total of 67 adult campers participated in swimming, crafts, games, dancing, entertainment, fun and fellowship.
The camp provides the only vacation for many campers and also provides respite for their caregivers, Stephens said. It serves adults 18 and up with cognitive, intellectual/physical disabilities. She said the camp is also important to the counselors and volunteers who help, by raising disability awareness - especially among the younger volunteers.
"It's always successful, we can't say enough good things about it. We had a wonderful camp, there are always tears when it ends," she said of Camp ECHO.
The Summer Speech Program is offered in conjunction with Wood County Schools. The schools provide the materials and the location at Martin Elementary School. The program provides each child with two half-hour therapy sessions weekly for six weeks.
An apraxia clinic has been added for children with extreme speech delays. This clinic includes sensory integration methods, oral motor exercise and speech therapy. The apraxia clinic participants receive additional therapy twice weekly, she said.
Summer Speech allows the students to continue their progression without the chance of forgetting any skills they have acquired during the regular school year. As the child's speech progresses, they may have the self-esteem to face the new school year, Stephens said.
"We had over 200 referrals, as awareness of the program is growing," Stephens said.
Other programs offered through the Society include: Adapted Aquatics; Mid-Ohio Valley Post-Polio Support; Buddy Camper; Everybody Counts; sign language classes; The Outing Club; special assistance; bowling party; and the Whitaker-Minard scholarship, available through the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation to those pursuing an associate or bachelor level degree in any field specializing in services for individuals with disabilities.
All Wood County Society programs are offered free of charge. The society is a tax-exempt, nonprofit agency.
In addition to the United Way support, other funding sources for the Society include its annual Celebration for Kids Telethon, grants, camp, group donations, holiday and memorial contributions.
The Wood County Society's main office recently relocated from the former Volunteer Action Center in downtown Parkersburg to its new location at 1411 Grand Central Ave., Suite 8, in Vienna. The new phone number is 304-428-4280. Stephens said the program's website is www.woodcountysociety.com and information is also available on Facebook at "Fans of Wood County Society."