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Bar News - February 19, 2010

DRC Celebrates 31 Years of Service to the Disabled

The Disabilities Rights Center (DRC) completed its thirty-onederful years commemoration in December with an announcement of the winners of its thirty-onederful yearsí drawing. The DRC is designated by the federal government and governor to provide protection and advocacy for individuals with disabilities; in New Hampshire they total over 200,000 citizens.

It was in October 1978 that the DRC began its operations with the hiring of its first employee, Donna Woodfin. Woodfin became DRCís first executive director. Along with a CETA funded secretary, the DRC provided advice and assistance to about 100 individuals that first year. Since then, the DRC staff has grown to 20, with 12 attorneys and has provided services to more than 40,000 clients.

The DRC has also impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of other individuals in New Hampshire and across the country through precedent-setting work, such as Timothy W. v. Rochester School District, 875F.2d 954 (1st Cir.) cert. denied 493 U.S. 954 (1989), a case in which it was held that school systems could not exclude any child from a public education under the federal special education law (now IDEA). More recently through Bryson v. Commissioner, NHDHHS (D.N.H. 2006) and legislative efforts in 2007, the DRC played a role in permanently ending the waitlist for services for persons with developmental disabilities or brain injuries in New Hampshire.

The DRCís direct appeal fundraising campaign began in July of 2009, culminating in the drawing held on December 18. While DRC did not reach its goal of raising $13,331.00, it came close, receiving a total of $11,165.00. The DRC was particularly heartened by the fact that a significant number of the donations came from attorneys. Family members of persons with disabilities, health care providers and human service advocates, professionals and providers comprised most of the rest of the donors.

Five prizes in all were awarded at the December 18 drawing. The top prize, a five-day stay on Marthaís Vineyard, went to Ellen Bennett, a physicianís assistant from Portsmouth. The other four prizes went to New Hampshire attorneys. Attorney Rebecca McBeath of Portsmouth won a three-day stay at Black Bear Lodge in Waterville Valley. Attorneys Jeff Schapira of Manchester and John Tobin of Concord each won a $50.00 gift certificate to the Common Man Restaurant.

Attorney Dennis Pizzimenti of Concord was selected for a Basic Motorcycle Safety Course (M.O.S.T.) provided by John Kohler, but asked DRC to offer the motorcycle safety course to another eligible donor. Jane Perham, the executive director of Residential Resources, a human service provider, was chosen. She will be making the motorcycle safety course available to one of her employees.

Dick Cohen, the DRCís Executive Director, expressed appreciation to all the contributors as well as to the award donors, adding that "while we fell a bit short of our target, the contributions will assist us in sustaining our capacity to serve our current and future clients. We remain hopeful that in 2010 and future years our direct fundraising appeals will result in increased contributions."

Laurie McCray, DRCís new president and parent of a young man with a disability who is finishing school, also expressed the hope that lawyers, especially, will continue to support the DRC, stating: "I am certain that you, as attorneys, can appreciate that it takes a special kind of person to dedicate oneís professional career to protection and advocacy work. Hundreds of NH citizens and their families, including my own, have benefited from the services of the DRC legal staff."

For more information on the DRC, its work, or to make a contribution, visit the DRC website at

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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