Greg Miller, President and CEO of Penn-Mar Human Services
They might be separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles but Greg Miller, President and CEO of Penn-Mar Human Services, and famed Greek Philosopher Aristotle share a belief in the power of self-discovery to transform lives. “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” said Aristotle and Greg Miller couldn’t agree more. This focus has become key to making Penn Mar Human services one of Maryland’s premier programs for helping individuals with disabilities become contributing members of their community.
No one knows the process of self-discovery better than the organization itself. Beginning in the early 1980s Penn Mar began exploring how to help students with disabilities move from structured school programs to adulthood. What they learned, after many years of successfully running sheltered workshop environments, was that their residents really needed a way to become more connected to the larger world, to “transform life into living.”
This discovery led to a shift in focus away from workshops to a community based career-training program. The transition took some doing. Just finding any willing partners and placing their residents in any open jobs didn’t fit with Penn Mar’s overall philosophy.
Greg Miller makes Penn Mar’s vision clear. “We DO NOT play on employer’s sympathy. We DO NOT differentiate that anything less should be expected from our folks.” Instead Penn Mar makes sure that the people and the jobs are in alignment. This discovery process is the secret weapon that has made the program so successful.
Working with each client individually the Penn Mar staff gets to know what they love, what motivates them and they go from there. Greg tells the inspiring story of a young man with disabilities who was capable of driving himself. Penn Mar helped him get a car and discovered that he loved to clean it as much as he loved to drive it. He was simply meticulous about every aspect of the car’s appearance. Armed with this knowledge the staff at Penn Mar got him a job detailing cars at a local car dealership where he has been incredibly successful.
Unfortunately the process isn’t always so simple. Discovery is hard work. Penn Mar clients work with their job developers for many hours to explore what they are good at, what interests them, and what jobs are available that fit their skill set. This long road of exploration stems from Greg’s belief that everyone from the families of children with disabilities, to potential employers, to Pen Mar counselors should all share a common mindset of high expectations. “Think about what a child’s life will look like in its most fulfilled way. Think more about who can support them as life unfolds. Shift from caregiver mentality to something that can look very different.”
This empowering outlook helps guide Penn Mar’s job developers to creatively match skills with jobs. Working with employers they explore if certain jobs can be customized. Greg explains, “If we have someone who is very detailed and loves sequencing we try to find a job where that skill can be a value. Perhaps it isn’t a full time job but Penn Mar might suggest that someone does a value added job for 4 hours a day to take the burden off of full time staff.”
Discovery is an on-going process not only for Penn Mar but for Greg who got his start by opening a group home for children while in graduate school and learned his mission was to help others.
A committed life-long learner who tries to read a book a week, Greg is passionate about spreading Penn Mar’s reach and breaking free from being “the best kept secret in town.”