When someone asks about the evolution of Harmony Home, Associated, I always say I was in the right place at the right time. I believe that hard work and opportunity are integral to success, but I also feel strongly that luck plays a significant role. I, along with others, have worked hard, and over the years I have been presented with opportunities due to the people whose paths I’ve crossed. I have been lucky to have crossed paths with those people, and because of those factors, Harmony Home has become what it is.
When I met Dan Bundy, I was an aide in a Special Day Class struggling with my desire to become a Special Education teacher and my dissatisfaction with being in a classroom and working within the school system. I was very conflicted. Because of Dan’s dream to open a group home, I was presented with an opportunity to use my teaching skills in the community. Dan’s dream became my dream, and we worked together to make it a reality. We received a great deal of support and assistance. The late, great Roz Wofsey was extremely supportive of our endeavor and instrumental in securing our non-profit status. She helped us write our Articles of Incorporation and By-laws. The late, great Mike Webber, of Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB), helped expedite the licensing process by making phone calls to the right people at DSS. Francine Davis was instrumental in getting us through the vendorization process so we could start supporting people as quickly as possible. The Allemands, Ackermans and Rodegards, parents of the residents, donated furniture, household items, money and their valuable time to help make the house a home. In 1982, Harmony Home opened its doors to 5 people whose lives we wanted to enrich.
I never would have been in that Special Day Class, next door to the one where Dan was teaching, if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time. I got the job because an opening presented itself in that classroom at the time I moved back to the Bay Area, and my friend knew the principal of the school. It was a lucky break.
During the mid to late 1980’s, a few of us were providing Independent Living Services (ILS) instruction and support as independent contractors hired by RCEB. At that point, there was not an agency vendorized to provide ILS in Contra Costa County. I heard that a Request for Proposals (RFP) would soon be released by RCEB and they wanted Harmony Home to apply to open an ILS agency. I never received the RFP. A few weeks later, I attended a conference sponsored by RCEB and ran into John Rodriguez who asked why I never submitted a proposal. I told him I never got the paperwork. Once he got back to his office, he mailed a packet. Dan, Candice Lilly and I worked on the Program Design around the clock as we had only one week before the deadline expired. We submitted the proposal on the last day. This was a huge undertaking. I will never forget how John Rodriguez and Nancy Kubota held my hand and walked me through the vendorization process. They gave me more help than I ever hoped for, made it painless and possible.
I will never forget the support and encouragement Candice Lilly gave me during that time, and has continued to give over the past 20 years. And I will forever be grateful to Dan Bundy who let me fly, and remained my friend, when it was time for me to take the dream in another direction.
I hadn’t planned to attend the conference sponsored by RCEB. It was a last minute decision. Had I not attended, I wouldn’t have run into John. The deadline for the RFP would have passed and Harmony Home wouldn’t have opened an ILS agency. Another lucky break.
In 1994, when RCEB approached me to participate in a pilot project called Community Supported Living Arrangements (CSLA), I was resistant, as were all of the ILS agencies they approached. We believed in the project, but felt RCEB didn’t truly embrace it. They seemed to be driven by other factors than what the true spirit of the project embodied. Then, fortunately, Marc Hennig entered the scene. RCEB assigned him to the CSLA project. His passion for CSLA and commitment on behalf of RCEB turned everybody around. Marc breathed new life into the project and provided all of us with an opportunity and support to develop the most individualized and innovative service the State of California offers. CSLA was successful and out of it grew Supported Living Services.
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to evolve along with Harmony Home. It feels somewhat symbiotic; as Harmony Home needed to grow and evolve, so did I. There are so many people who have contributed to the success of Harmony Home; countless case managers, supervisors and management staff at RCEB; Rocio Smith who brought providers together in an effort to support one another, but also to strengthen services within the community; parents and family members; the pioneers of Harmony Home’s ILS program who jumped in feet first without looking knowing they were going to make a difference; and the past and current employees of Harmony Home who are committed to assisting people to lead a full life within the community.
But mostly, I thank the people we support for what you give us everyday that makes us who we are, what we are and why we strive to be the best we can be.
Carol McKinney Executive Director