February 24, 2014 by

VODEC began in 1968 when a group of parents, educators, and others sought to implement a paradigm shift in how people with disabilities are perceived and, more vitally, how they interact with society. Loved ones with disabilities were too commonly all but invisible throughout the larger community. Many went to special schools. Some lived in special housing arrangements. The emphasis, it seemed, invariably centered on the concept of “special.”

“We serve people first and foremost as members of society,” says Daryn Richardson, the local nonprofit’s services development director. “Only secondarily do we see them as persons with disabilities, as persons with special needs.”

VODEC provides day programs, employment programs, and residential programs that are designed to meet most every need in helping individuals and communities reach their full potential through inclusion.

Originally known as the Vocational Development Center, VODEC today serves over 500 individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.

“The core of our mission is to recognize each and every person’s full potential as just that—a person with unlimited potential,” says Richardson. “It’s the most basic of starting points in our thinking, and we want the community to think the same way. After all, these are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our friends.”

The nonprofit offers a robust slate of programs. The business services unit offers packaging, assembly, shrink-wrapping, and other services staffed by VODEC’s people. Activities programs include dining out and trips to parks, museums, and other places of interest. Additional initiatives are aimed squarely at the idea that we are all social beings. Such topics as how to meet new friends, strategic thinking and problem solving skills, stranger danger, and understanding boundaries help open doors to a broader, richer world for all.

Creativity was the buzzword the day Omaha Magazine visited VODEC.

“WhyArts is here today (see related story on page 111) so they encountered a room full of artists,” says Richardson. “Sure, they also happen to be persons with disabilities, but today they are artists. We want to give them every opportunity to be themselves and experience life in new and rewarding ways. Tomorrow and next week and next month they will be something else, but today they are artists.”

VODEC's Pam Wyzykowksi with Greg Foster

Visit vodec.org for additional information.