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Road to Responsibility serves developmentally disabled community on South Shore

Posted by Your Town  October 20, 2013 12:15 AM

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WEYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — The odds were against Mark Garrity when he was struck by a vehicle and suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1995. Doctors told his family that Garrity, who was born developmentally delayed, had a 10 percent chance of surviving. If he did make it, the previously high-functioning Garrity would have to relearn even the most basic functions, like swallowing.

But when Garrity, who is nonverbal, awoke from a three-month-long coma, the first sign he made to family was for the word ‘‘work.’’

‘‘He was driven to get back to work, to get back to his friends and the environment that gives him a reason for living,’’ his sister, Patty Garrity, said. ‘‘When I pick him up every day, before I even start the car, he says, ‘Work tomorrow?'’’

A Weymouth native, Garrity, 43, has participated in the work program at Road to Responsibility for almost as long as the organization has existed. He joined his co-workers and friends at Road to Responsibility’s 25th anniversary fundraiser on Oct. 11.

Founded in 1988, the nonprofit serves hundreds of developmentally disabled people on the South Shore through housing and day and work programs where they complete tasks such as collating packages.

Rob Lever, spokesman for Road to Responsibility, said the organization competes for work through a bidding process, much like a normal business. The employees recently put together 10,000 bags of promotional material in three days.

‘‘We expect a lot from them, and that’s our goal. We want them to know what it feels like to work a full day,’’ Lever said. ‘‘They have pay day, break time, lunch, just like any other job.’’

On Monday, Garrity and his co-workers at the Braintree program spent the morning packaging remote controllers.

‘‘It’s my life. I love coming here,’’ said Tammy Ford, 47, of Hingham, who is also in the work program. ‘‘I answer the phones on Friday.’’

Patty Garrity said the program has given her brother’s life a purpose, and a reason to recover from his accident. It took him two years to return, but he did it.

‘‘Mark can’t create his own opportunity, so that’s what Road to Responsibility does. It brings opportunities to people, and they are going past their challenges and achieving,’’ she said. ‘‘I see it every day, and I'm thankful for it.’’

While Patty Garrity thought highly of the agency prior to Mark’s accident, she said it went above and beyond in helping her brother go back to work in a wheelchair, at first just part time.

And when Mark showed interested in returning full time, the program manager insisted he could, with the right assistance, despite Patty Garrity’s concerns.

‘‘They gave me the ability to trust again,’’ she said. ‘‘On paper you might not think so, but he’s completely capable in the right setting.’’

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