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Cecil County Life

Fulfillment through empowerment

Jun 06, 2019 08:49AM ● By J. Chambless

Mary Falkenstein, Executive Director of Bayside Community Network, Inc.: ‘Bayside assists Individuals with intellectual disabilities to achieve their greatest level of independence in work, life and leisure.’

By Drewe Phinny
Staff Writer

Mary Falkenstein, the Executive Director of Bayside Community Network, Inc., has been with BCN for 26 years, moving from Director of Residential Services to Quality Assurance to her current position, which she has held for 11 years.

A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., she moved to the area in 1992 after marrying her husband Aaron, a lifelong Cecil County resident. They live in the Elk Neck area with their two daughters, Victoria and Jacqulyn. Falkenstein recently answered some questions about her work at Bayside.


That’s the mission of Bayside Community Network, Inc.?

In a nutshell, Bayside assists Individuals with intellectual disabilities to achieve their greatest level of independence in work, life and leisure. This picture looks very different for each person, and is driven by their abilities, dreams and desires.


Can you define the word disability, and are there different categories that may or not be treated by Bayside?

First, we don’t like to focus on the word disability, because it tends to dictate what limitations an individual may have. We like to look at each individual for what special and unique abilities they possess. These abilities are what truly defines the person. For technical purposes, BCN provides supports for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities which occur prior to the end of the 21st year of life. BCN also provides assisted living services to seniors, with or without disabilities.


What are the most formidable challenges for Bayside?

As with any nonprofit, the largest challenge is the ongoing search for funding. State funds only go so far. Donations and grants are always sought for special projects, support of individuals without state funding, Camp Care scholarships and the ongoing funds needed to upkeep 14 residential homes, a day/vocational site and our senior assisted living home. Furthermore, we are tasked with assisting those of our individuals who are interested in work with finding a job within the community. In general, most employers don’t realize that the individuals we serve can be a contributing, dependable and capable member of the work force.


Are there misconceptions or prejudices with respect to disabilities?

Disability is probably the greatest misconception. Our individuals have abilities and qualities that better define who they are as a person. These abilities allow them to be contributing members of our community and local work force.


Do staff members work only on Bayside’s Route 40 campus, or do they visit residences, too?

BCN has approximately 210 employees who work at various locations, including our Route 40 campus, on-site job coaching at various employers, Sunny Acres Senior Assisted Living Home, Camp Care, 14 residential homes, as well as onsite in family homes providing personal supports.


How does Bayside get involved in the community?

We encourage our individuals to be a part of the community in which they live and work. Our individuals do this by enjoying the great leisure opportunities offered in our county and by participating in our volunteer programs. BCN currently has 23 volunteer sites where our individuals utilize their time and talent to give back to their community. These opportunities are two-fold, allowing them to give back while learning and practicing skills that can be later used in work and life


What Bayside events are coming up in the spring and summer of 2019?

Camp Care for ages 5-21 (July 15 to Aug. 2); ​Camp Care 25th anniversary celebration (Aug. 2); Craft Beer and Wine Festival (Fall 2019); Greenhouse reopening and dedication (Summer 2019). We have a new Grant and Fundraising Coordinator, Jessica Johnson, who is always looking for collaborating partners and businesses to support our fundraising and event efforts.


Has there been any community opposition to Bayside?

No. In general, our community is and always has been very supportive of our organization and mission.


What’s ahead for Bayside?

BCN will concentrate on highlighting our individual gifts and abilities to the local workforce as they seek part and fulltime employment. BCN will support these individuals to be successful through transportation to and from work, and job coaching as needed. We are currently seeking local businesses interested in employing these individuals in a part-time or full-time capacity. Interested businesses should contact us at 410-398-6394.

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