Duet gives people a second chance


Lending a HandResidents Sherika (left) helps Shawn (right) tear programs as part of an engagement activity. Engagement activities, such as this, allow clients to make a supplemental income, boost confidence and increase community involvement. Photo by Maggie Peklo

About a 10-minute walk from the doors of Marian, past the red gate, at the bottom of lower lot is Duet, formerly known as ENCOR. They provide engagement opportunities for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities of all ages, and they have facilities in five Nebraska counties— Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington.

According to their website, “ENCOR was the nation’s first comprehensive provider of community based services.”  They are an “experienced team of professionals who each have [many years] of experience in the field of developmental disabilities.” Their goal is to support, encourage and empower people with disabilities and provide them with work and learning experiences.

“We were the first, nationally, to provide people with disabilities a second chance. Before we opened in 1968, parents would bring children with special needs such as Down Syndrome or other disabilities into the world, and doctors would advise the parents to tell family and friends the baby died. The doctors would then send the baby to an institution in Beatrice where the child was sterilized and kept confined and out of the public,” said Developmental Director Marcy Browning.

“Our mission is to serve everyone, regardless of race, gender or religion, with the dignity they deserve. At first, we started with just children but now we serve all ages. Some of our clients have been here since we opened,” Browning said.

Duet offers services for people on a wide spectrum. They offer engaging activities, volunteerism and vocational training. “Clients volunteer at local food pantries by making food bags, and they are even hired out by companies to sort recycling for a supplemental income. These opportunities are referred to as ‘gigs,’ and they serve a purpose and reason to get out of bed,” Browning said.

“Many people call up and ask if we need volunteers. However, most of the time I ask if they need volunteers because our residences love engaging with the community. Some groups have scheduled events, such as Coffee and Contacts, when a corporate group comes in every so often to visit with our residents, have coffee and play games,” Browning said.

The care and services Duet offers sparked a trend across the entire globe and set precedents for disability care. The methods they use are now used internationally.

“We began in the quiet earthquake of the civil rights movement. Many people think the civil rights movement only included race and gender, but all people were helped during this time frame, including the disabled,” Browning said. “Once we began our program, other states caught on very quickly, and the lives of many families and people were improved.”

Duet recently changed its name from ENCOR because they wanted to portray their goal more. ENCOR originally was an acronym that included an out-dated, incorrect clinical diagnosis. In order to keep with their mission, they chose the name Duet as a way to exemplify development, unity, empowerment and togetherness.

In order to celebrate this name change, they will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.

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