DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Two milestones were noted March 5 when the Charlotte White Center marked its 30th anniversary and Richard Brown marked the same length of time as the agency’s only chief executive officer.
The nonprofit provides residential, day treatment, outpatient counseling and community support services for adults and children with behavioral health problems or intellectual and cognitive disabilities. It began 30 years ago as a single day program with four employees serving 15 consumers. Now the agency serves more than 700 people a month and more than 2,000 people a year in more than 30 district services.
In the summer of 1978, Charlotte White of Guilford, a devout Methodist and former state legislator, became concerned about the closure of a day program that had operated for three years serving people with mental illness or mental retardation. With her network of friends and supporters, she started a movement to get funding for a new center-based day treatment program. A small group of residents joined her effort, and they hired Richard Brown on Feb. 14, 1979, to direct the center’s opening.
Brown and volunteers worked to renovate a former florist shop area in the Masonic Temple for the program’s use.
During the open house, White said she wanted to “do something good up here in Piscataquis [County] for people who were a little less fortunate than others.”
White served the first year as chairwoman of the board, a role that later was held by her two daughters Betsey Cousins and Mary Lo Shahawy.
The agency has grown to become a major contributor to social services and health care in Piscataquis, Penobscot, Somerset, Hancock, Kennebec and Waldo counties. Today, the agency employs more than 450 people and contributes more than $8 million in payroll and another $2 million in benefits to communities.
Brown, the only person remaining from the original staff, said the success of the Charlotte White Center began with White’s reputation that gave the agency instant recognition statewide in its early days. The agency’s success has relied on the effort, dedication and teamwork of the staff, board members and consumer groups working together through the years to remain focused on a mission to convey respect and empowerment to all.
“While the economic challenges we are facing nationally and statewide are negatively affecting nonprofits across all domains, the Charlotte White Center continues to thrive due to the creativity, adaptability, flexibility and hard work of all those involved in this amazing success story,” Brown said.