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FOUNDED IN 1979

the Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc. has more than 35 years’ experience designing human service programs and promoting new opportunities for persons with disabilities and victims of conflict in the United States and throughout the world.

 

“Polus” is of Latin origin, and means “looking towards the heavens.” It suggests searching and working toward an ideal, a pinnacle. This means not only the best for people who are poor, disabled or in some way disenfranchised, but the best for all of us. Polus, the highest point, represents everyone’s search for the best of who and what we are.
— Michael Lundquist, Polus Center Executive Director

Our Philosophy 

Rooted in the constructs of Social Role Valorization theory, we believe in a person-centered, holistic approach to  assistance. By considering emotional and social factors in addition to physical symptoms, we provide assistance based upon a complete picture of an individual’s actual needs as opposed to addressing the perceived needs of a larger group or target population. This process begins with extensive interviews with potential service recipients in order to gain a deeper understanding of their lives .

Over the years

The Polus Center continues to broaden the scope of its mission beyond the provision of direct care services, to include planning and development consultation services on the national and international level.

With support from and in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), the Polus Center has been providing physical rehabilitation and creating social and economic opportunities for victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) for over 15 years throughout Latin America.

This victim assistance work has included training for rehabilitation staff, distribution of prosthetic/orthotic mobility aids, and income generation programs for people with disabilities to improve their livelihoods and help them to achieve valued roles within their local communities.

The Polus Center has an established track record for creating innovative and flexible person centered victim assistance. Grassroots development projects and mini-grants help people with disabilities create or maintain small businesses, access educational opportunities, combat social stigma, and become re-integrated into their communities.

 
Colombia, photo by Stephen Petegorsky

Colombia, photo by Stephen Petegorsky

The Polus Center continues to support the rehabilitation needs of war-wounded Syrian victims of conflict in Jordan, and have begun victim assistance outreach to landmine victims living in countries such as Tajikistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Colombia, the Polus Center recently received an additional $250,000 grant from the Department of State (PM/WRA) to continue victim assistance for victims of conflict living in coffee growing communities, and are in the process of becoming registered in Colombia so that we can partner with deminig organizations to bring a holistic approach to mine action in the región ravaged by decades of conflict.

In Massachusetts, U.S.A., the Polus Center has supported people with a range of disabilities since 1979. Beginning with traditional residential and vocational services for people with developmental disabilities, the Polus Center was one of the pioneers of the concept of person-centered "shared living," where people with and without disabilities shared their lives and homes in the community of their choice. People in congregated group homes and employment workshops moved to their own homes and found competitive integrated employment opportunities.

One of the Polus Center’s first international projects in 1997 was the establishment of Walking Unidos, a small prosthetic clinic in Leon Nicaragua, which continues to operate today.

One of the Polus Center’s first international projects in 1997 was the establishment of Walking Unidos, a small prosthetic clinic in Leon Nicaragua, which continues to operate today.

In 2015 the Polus Center shifted its strategic focus to international efforts for victims of conflict, and  in Massachusetts to innovative employment and training programs for people with a wide range of disabilities, especially those who are legally blind. We continue a small amount of residential support through our partnership with Family Care at Home, which helps low income families and friends provide care for their loved ones at home, thus avoiding the need to move into a medical or institutional setting. Our primary work in Massachusetts today is to help people with disabilities gain the skills, credentials, career support and work opportunities to help them find competitive integrated employment. This includes supporting the implementation of the Disabilities Employment Initiative in North Central Massachusetts, adapting Project SEARCH to support long term unemployed adults who are legally blind, and implementation of an innovative program for youth with vision impairments called the Envision Success Project (ESP). We are currently developing a new "soft skills" and work readiness training program for people with a range of disabilities and a new On-The-Job training program for people with vision loss.

 

GUIDING PRINCIPALS

  • People are more alike than different
  • Community life is strengthened by including all citizens
  • Any group can become vulnerable - once vulnerable they become targets of oppression.
  • The composition of vulnerable groups can change over time
  • Societal beliefs and perceptions about people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups have a profound impact on people's lives.
  • Promoting "valued social roles" for vulnerable groups enhances social and economic opportunities and creates a more inclusive community.
  • Social and economic stigmas can have a serious negative effect on a person's life
  • Programs must be designed in collaboration with local communities and must be person centered
  • Family members and friends of vulnerable persons play an essential role in program design and the fostering of natural support networks.
  • Polus is committed to developing leadership and services that reflect best practice.
  • Programs and support services must be flexible and tailored to each person
  • Polus values diversity and strives to create partnerships that reflect this belief

Who We Are

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Michael Lundquist,

Executive Director

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Theresa Kane, Ph.D, 

Chief Operating Officer

Board Of Directors

PRESIDENT  Rev. Richard Fournier 

VICE PRESIDENT  Nellie Zarif, CP

SECRETARY  Theresa Kane, Ph.D.

TREASURER  Dr. E.J. Welch

MEMBERS

  • John Burger
  • David Derezinski
  • Alan Dernalowicz
  • Michelle Miller
  • Stephen Petegorsky
 

Financials