Grants ensure future of DEAP programs

Chance Gilbertson, from left, mixes lemonade Tuesday evening as Sheldon Medearis chops tomatoes and Kent Duffin shreds lettuce for the taco salad being prepared in the Wesleyan Church kitchen for the D.E.A.P. meeting about to take place there. As this group was making dinner, another group of parents and students was in the other basement room preparing a craft project for everyone to enjoy after dinner. (Star photo by Steve Allison)



With the benefit of a pair of grants, the local office of the Developmental Educational Assistance Program (DEAP) is providing local kids with disabilities the opportunity to learn life skills.

DEAP has supplemental funding through two grants from the Montana Children’s Trust Fund and the Governor’s Office of Community Service Global Youth Services Day. Both grants support community inclusion social/emotional  and life skills development for teens with disabilities including a six-week intensive summer program.

Jamey Petersen, grant manager for the Montana Children’s Trust Fund, visited the DEAP offices in Miles City and Glendive last week, and was impressed with her visit, as well as the different programs offered. The Montana Legislature created the Children’s Trust Fund in 1985 to serve as the lead agency in reducing — and ultimately eliminating — maltreatment of Montana children. The trust fund provides financial support to local programs across the state to prevent child abuse and neglect and to strengthen families.

“It was really fun to get over to Miles City and familiarize myself with the DEAP program,” Petersen said. “I was able to meet some of the children and families that benefit from the programs DEAP offers, and the work they do is just amazing.”

As part of her visit, Petersen was treated to a dinner/social prepared by the teens with disabilities. She had high praise for the kids and their families, as well as the staff at DEAP.

“To be there, and get to see their building and meet their staff and see the programs they offer was amazing,” she said. “They just care so much for these people and these programs. One of the larger things I was really impressed with was the length of time their program staff has been there. They’ve all been there for 15-20 years. To have a support staff that dedicated is outstanding. We’re just tickled to death to be able to support a program that cares so much for the people in their community.”

A portion of the funding the grants provide are used for the kids who participate in the summer program to start a garden. The kids go over to the garden everyday to cultivate the produce, which then is donated to the soup kitchen and/or food bank and other organizations as a way of giving to local community needs. Kim Beaner of DEAP said the garden, along with the other activities kids participate in, stresses educational and self-help skills.

“We help with the skills the kids will need when they move out on their own,” Beaner said. “We usually have a core group of eight kids, with varying disabilities, but we will have maybe 15 or 20 depending on the activity. One of the things we work a lot on during the summer program is cooking. With the dinner we served for Jamey Petersen’s visit, the kids went shopping for the meal and then prepared it. We made taco salad, and then the kids did an art project. Their parents helped with that as well.”

Sylvia Danforth of DEAP said April is Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, and the Children’s Trust Fund grant was provided for exactly that reason.

“Children with special needs have a lot of challenges, and when those kids have disabilities they are at higher risk for abuse and neglect,” Danforth said. “Providing them the opportunity with the summer program to get a lot of skill development while maintaing the skills they’ve learned during the school year also provides respite for their families, gives them a break from that care-giving.”