After 50 years, Carobell is showing no signs of slowing down.
Carobell, Inc., a private nonprofit organization based in Hubert that provides residential care and services for developmentally and intellectually disabled individuals, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary at Marston Pavilion aboard Camp Lejeune.
“We are the lucky ones,” Carobell Program Director Mary Butts said. “Because we have been allowed to assist these members in becoming the people they are, and it is such a blessing to us.”
Carobell first opened in Jacksonville on July 1, 1969, at the home of one of its two founders, Elizabeth Bell Midgett, according to its website. It began as a home to care for newborns and young children.
“The doctors didn’t believe these babies had much of a chance at life and it was through their care and positive approach and their belief that these children could succeed that people lived a longer lifespan,” Lora Morse, a qualified developmental disability professional at Carobell, said. “That’s one thing that always stood out to me with their story.”
Carobell eventually moved from Jacksonville to Hubert, where they house 38 individuals in six houses, and have another location in Swansboro.
The organization serves North Carolina by offering permanent residential care for individuals, off-site and community-based services, and a vocational program to give them skills and confidence to build upon.
“We want them to do what they want to do,” Butts said. “That has always been one of our main focuses.”
Butts has worked many different jobs across various fields, but said Carobell was special. Every employee at the organization has a passion for what they do, and it starts from the top and works through every employee. Vanessa Ervin has been president and CEO of Carobell for more than 20 years, and under her Carobell has continued to thrive. Her leadership is built on trust, teamwork, and growth.
But more than anything, the humanity and honesty of their members is what brings her back everyday.
“They accept you for who you are and you always want to do right by them,” Butts said. “Because their love is pure, they don’t judge you for anything.”
The residential care, their oldest service, provides a home tailored to individual needs, where they can receive attention, feel loved, and know they are secure.
“I have a great relationship with them,” Alice Hill, a senior technician at Carobell, said. “I pretty much know them inside and out, and that makes me feel really good and makes me know that I’m doing my job to meet their needs.”
Outside the four homes, the main site in Hubert also houses a pool for swimming, quiet sensory rooms, classrooms, and a workshop. They had a greenhouse until Florence destroyed it last year.
Carobell’s offsite services include a community living and support program, which assists members in going out into and learning about their community. They connect with resources that help them become as independent as possible, and show people in the area they are no different from them.
“They want the same things as we want in life,” Butts said. “They like doing activities, they like socializing.”
Carobell also offers a service called “Respite,” in which they give the family or primary caregiver of individuals an opportunity to take a break and have time to themselves. They also offer a personal assistance program, which works with members to set goals, achieve them, learn skills, and build on new ones.
Carobell also puts its members to work, which gives them a sense of accomplishment. The amount of jobs they offer on-site and off is varied enough to give each individual a chance to follow their passion or explore new ones. Everything they work on or create is paid, Morse said.
“It’s not cookie-cutter at all,” she said. “They are all interested in very different things, and not one of them is the same.”
Members make dog beds personalized with favorite sports teams or patterns, bake dog and cat biscuits that are sold to local veterinary offices, shred documents for companies, and create greeting cards and candy bouquets. Carobell also runs the Station Club Enterprise in Morehead City, where members craft furniture of all types that is sold and used in local parks, public areas, and homes. Individuals also volunteer at schools to read to children, as well as helping at the Ronald McDonald house.
“There is no need that goes unmet,” Morse said. “We honestly would be remiss if we were not in-tune with what they need, and able to make that happen, that is our job.”
As Carobell looks toward the future, they see optimism on the horizon. They have embraced technology by purchasing iPads for their members to use, and are connected to the Health Information Exchange. They plan to go paperless soon. Overall, as they continue to grow and reach with their members into the community more, the path ahead looks as solid as the one behind.
“I think that’s a big part of the future, is going to be providing services for the community in addition to the residential,” Morse said. “Not just remaining the same but progressing into the future.”
By Kevin Vandenburg/The Daily News