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Whitin Mill Workshops Help Build Stronger, More Inclusive Communities

June 2019

(Worcester, MA – June 12, 2019) Open Sky Community Services is pleased to announce a partnership with EmcArts, a nationally recognized service organization and think tank which assists individuals, organizations and communities tackle their most complex social challenges. The outcome is a series of community workshops taking place at the Whitin Mill in Whitinsville, intended to build a stronger community that is welcoming to all its citizens, including people with disabilities. The partnership comes through a grant from the Kresge Foundation.

Open Sky invited 12 community organizations to participate in the six workshops, which started in May and will run through July. Representatives from the town of Northbridge, Whitin Community Center, Apple Tree Arts, Valley Chapel, Stepping Stone Community Theatre, ValleyCAST, Mass Cultural Council, UniBank, Blackstone Valley Arts Association, Worcester State University, Advocates and the Lions Club gathered to identify complex challenges in the community, explore responses that move away from traditional linear planning, and establish promising, emergent practices through art-based experiential learning.

“With this series of workshops, we will define a plan and best practices to create and sustain welcoming communities,” said Kelley Gamble, Open Sky Community Services’ Vice President of Community Initiatives. “There is growing recognition that people who have mental health challenges or developmental disabilities can thrive in communities that are inclusive and welcoming, and where they can participate as equals with non-disabled community members. Programs that serve people with disabilities seek to provide ‘bridging opportunities’ that connect the individuals served to people and groups that are outside of the professional network of paid staff.”

The first workshops in the series were held May 21st and 22nd, at which 37 participants from the various community organizations worked in small groups and identified topics to tackle. These subjects included: building a culture of community contribution and service; developing greater understanding and acceptance; causes of community inequity; creating inclusive spaces for new, vibrant and diverse voices to be heard.

For more information, contact Kelley Gamble at kelley.gamble@openskycs.org

About Open Sky Community Services Open Sky Community Services is dba for Alternatives Unlimited, Inc and The Bridge of Central MA. Open Sky offers a wide range of services for adults, adolescents, and children with mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, brain injury, homelessness and other challenges throughout Central Massachusetts. Open Sky Community Services has over 1,300 dedicated employees and an annual budget of $83M with more than 100 programs throughout the region. For more information, please visit www.openskycs.org.