11/08/07 — O'Berry observes its 50th anniversary

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O'Berry observes its 50th anniversary

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 8, 2007 1:46 PM

Bill and Maureen Scott still recall the day, 39 years ago, they brought their troubled eight-year-old son to O'Berry Center and the "heart-wrenching decision" to leave him there.

"We were frightened as could be, but there was this lovely woman who ran to Billy and put her hand around his and was so loving with him," Mrs. Scott said.

From that moment, she said, "I have never had that particular knot in my stomach any more ... every year it seems to get better and better."

O'Berry turned out to be a "godsend" because of those entrusted with the care of her son, Mrs. Scott said.

Her husband shared similar sentiments.

"We came down here heavy-hearted. It was hard to leave our little boy with strangers," he said. "But what a gem we have in O'Berry Center. ... If someone gave me a million dollars and said to do something with it, I don't know what I would do that O'Berry isn't already doing."

The couple have been instrumental over the years in raising money for such projects as playground equipment, primarily through Scott's affiliation with Knights of Columbus.

They were at the center on Wednesday to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and spoke during rededication ceremonies.

It was a dual celebration of O'Berry's rich history, said Dr. Frank Farrell, center director since 2005 -- commemorating the past with an eye toward the future.

"It's a celebration of 50 years of service to people with developmental disabilities but it's also a rededication of our new role and missions, and that role will be to continue to provide exceptional services, specifically for those that need more medical care," he said.

Part of its new identity will be reflected in the name change, which was officially unveiled this week. It will now be known as O'Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center.

The transition is necessary, since 70 percent of the individuals at O'Berry are considered medically fragile, Farrell said. Their average age is now over 50, he added.

The biggest changes for staff will be complying with regulations, more in line with nursing home care, he explained.

"Those regulations are different. There will be more of a focus on the medical care," he said.

Efforts have already begun to ensure direct care staff has the necessary certification, Farrell said. Of the 600-plus staff, 400 have already become certified nursing assistants, thanks to a cooperative agreement between O'Berry and Wayne Community College providing needed training.

What will not change, the director noted, is the primary focus of "providing the best quality of life to folks living here."

Anne Scott Turner can attest to that, from several vantage points. She was the fourth person hired at O'Berry when it opened in 1957. She worked there as a secretary until 1961, returning to Goldsboro three decades later in a different capacity.

"We had a special needs daughter, Layne (now 43). She loves O'Berry," Mrs. Turner said. "We have been advocates for our special needs folks ever since our daughter was diagnosed."

Her days working at O'Berry hold fond memories, but never did she imagine she would one day require the same services she saw others receiving.

"But it prepared me," she says now. "O'Berry's become state of the art. Whatever the best things are for special populations, it's here."

The center held two celebrations this week to mark its half-century anniversary. On Tuesday, ceremonies were held for residents, staff and retirees. Wednesday afternoon, the event was geared to family members and guardians, representatives from other state facilities and the General Assembly.

Seven individuals who have lived at O'Berry since the day it opened in 1957 were also recognized. And a time capsule, to be buried in the near future in Knights of Columbus Park, was unveiled by Bob Dively, special projects coordinator.

Among the other events were a ribbon cutting for the new Berry Towne Crafts log cabin and dedication ceremony for the "Peace Pole."

The log cabin is nearing completion, but a target date for when the store will be open is uncertain, said Carolyn Davis, director of educational/vocational services.

The peace pole, located in front of the chapel, is appropriate because O'Berry "is a place of peace and we're very proud of our staff and the many kindnesses that they give others," Dively said.

There are more than 200,000 peace poles worldwide, in 180 countries, he noted.

"To our knowledge it's the only one in any of the developmental centers in North Carolina. Throughout the world, they're in some really cool places -- like the northern magnetic pole, Hiroshima, great Egyptian pyramids in Gaza, and now O'Berry Center," he said.

The three former center directors -- Dr. Vernon Mangum, Dr. Jose DeVarona and Dr. Jerry Lyall -- also attended.

From Goldsboro Training School to the O'Berry School to O'Berry Center, and now in its new moniker, each director has moved it to the next level, said Mike Moseley, director of the Division of Mental Health.

"All of our facilities I would stack up against any facilities in the country," Moseley said, commending the "wonderful, dedicated staff who perform in spite of whether they make enough money, have enough resources, enough staff .... you do it because you love what you do and this was your calling."