Emotional farewell for disabled program

May 7, 2009 7:40:31 PM PDT
A San Francisco program that helped the disabled for decades shut down on Thursday.

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City officials say it's not because of the budget crisis, but instead, they say the decision reflects a change in thinking about the treatment of the people the program helps.

A party took place on Thursday afternoon, but it was not a celebration. This was a farewell dance for what's called the Assisted Services Division, a San Francisco Rec. and Park Department program that has served emotionally, physically and developmentally disabled children and adults for more than 40 years.

"That means all of our clients, our five programs are gone with the wind," said Program Director David Dinslage.

Program Director Carolyn Anaya has lost her job.

"Obviously for you this is heartbreaking," said ABC7's Carolyn Tyler.

"It is. It's worse than that," said Anaya.

Benny Banich says he'll miss the parties.

"You know they're closing," said Tyler.

"I heard, yeah, I'm going to miss it too. I don't know why they're closing," said Banich.

Rec. and Park says they're shutting down the program to move away from segregating the disabled.

"Inclusion needs to be the way to go, so rather than having separate programs that serve a few, we want programs across the broad spectrum of Rec. and Park that serve more," said Interim Rec. and Park Director Jared Blumenfeld.

At a ceremony on Thursday, the men and women of Fire Station 9 who have been involved with the program since the very beginning were recognized, and there was a plaque for Jimmy O'Keefe. He's donated thousands of dollars from an annual car show.

"It's been fun for me, like it's a giving back sort of thing," said O'Keefe.

They're still hoping to save the program somehow and have launched a petition drive.

But Rec. and Park says programs like this are a thing of the past. The nationwide model is inclusion.

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