Chesco was incorporated as a private, not for profit 501(c) (3) corporation in 1985. The founding Executive Director, Joan Moura was recruited from Massachusetts to establish the agency. Upon accepting the position, she was sent to the University of Oregon, where a detailed start up plan was developed.
This new agency, (Chesco Inc) was New Hampshire’s first purveyor of community based, supported employment services for individuals with significant disabilities. This service was created initially to specialize in providing employment, placement training, and ongoing support services to individuals who had severe disabilities.
Chesco was affiliated with the University of Oregon’s Specialized Training Program for the first 5 years. This connection provided the agency with start-up support, systematic training technology, technical support, and quality assurance services (quarterly).
In return, the agency supplied the University with pre-determined outcome data. Data submitted to the University confirmed that Chesco was an exemplar supported employment model throughout its first 5 years of service.
This initial connection established our commitment to full community involvement, the importance of community connections, choice, the value of contribution and real employment, the potential of individuals to work in a variety of jobs, the importance of systematic training, and utilizing creative methods to provide unobtrusive ongoing supports.
Initially, Chesco was set up as a mobile work crew model. It employed 15 individuals by placing them with a trades’ person. The agency marketed itself as a business that could provide such services as hardwood floor sanding, commercial painting, wall paper removal, post construction clean-up, commercial cleaning, lawn care, and small moving jobs. Each work crew consisted of 5 individuals with disabilities and one experienced trades’ person.
Many of the individuals served during this time, took their first ‘community steps’ on these work crews after many years of institutionalization and limited or no access to the real labor market.
In 1988, an interest was expressed by an individual served, to leave the work crew and work at a local company. With some thought, it was decided to try and place this person in a job of his own, with natural supports.
This was the beginning of many changes for both the individuals served and the agency. The first placement was quite successful and initiated the beginning of a paradigm shift in our mission statement and future direction. It was quickly evident that placing individuals in their own jobs enhanced choice, self-determination, personal connections, community involvement, independence, self-esteem, and wages. Chesco spent the next couple of years disbanding the work crews, placing individuals in their own jobs, and expanding its individual job placement skills.
In the early 1990’s, Chesco was given the first opportunity to provide supports to individuals in their homes. The agencies’ experience with developing individual job options and unique specific on the job supports for everyone, was and continues to be important.
As employment specialists, we also gained skill in teaching new skills, providing unobtrusive, transparent, and effective supports to people. All these skills gave us the knowledge and understanding of how to truly listen and respond to the needs and dreams of the person as opposed to pushing them into cookie cutter type ‘programs’.
As a result of Chesco’s skills being so conducive to supporting a wide range of individual needs and disabilities, the agency continued to expand the types of supports we could uniquely offer to each person served. Each individual and their support team can specifically pick supports and services based on their specific needs, goals, and dreams.
The new services that emerged, include full employment placement and supports, supported employment services, vocational rehabilitation vendor services, 24 hours/day staffing capabilities, outreach services, 24 hour/day emergency on call services, recruitment and support of home providers, recruitment and support of unpaid roommates, private pay options, transition from school to work support, medication supports, literacy training, life-long learning assistance, community connecting, and most recently, supporting senior citizens who wish to pay for supports themselves, and specialized services for individuals with developmental disabilities and high risk behavior.
In the past 20 years, Chesco has developed its ability and skills to provide support individuals with a wide range of ages, needs, disabilities, and life situations. Some individuals also need additional supports that are designed to address behaviors that could put themselves and potentially the community at risk. Chesco is proud of its 33 years history of consumer based, dynamic, creative, responsive supports for people with unique needs. All supports, and categories of services are entrenched in a consistent commitment to the agencies’ mission and principles.
Today Chesco is proud to serve over 80 plus individuals living in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. As a locally based, consumer driven, established company in this area, we will continue to provide employment, home, and community supports to its local citizens. As an active member of the Keene business community, Chesco also contributes much to the local economy as evidenced by our ever-growing pool of 150 plus employees and subcontractors. (Updated October 2018)