New president, new vision for CHI Centers
Sep. 8, 1999

September 8, 1999

by Liz M. Zylwitis

Staff Writer

The people who elected Barry Locke president of CHI Centers, a Silver Spring-based organization that has served the developmentally disabled for 51 years, hope he will use his news experience to help them tell the public the importance of what they do.

"When there is a meeting about the Intercounty Connector, scores of people turn out," Locke said. "But when there is a meeting about providing support to the developmentally disabled, the public is missing.

"We need to provide the public with more information about what it means to be disabled. I cannot run the four-minute mile. Does that make me disabled?" he asked. "Each of our clients has assets and attributes just like any other person."

Locke, a resident of Montgomery Village, began his career as a reporter, but later made his way into the ranks of the federal government, where he eventually retired as a special assistant to the U.S. secretary of transportation.

He was serving on the Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board when he met a member of CHI Centers' board of directors four years ago and joined its business advisory council until he was accepted for a position on the 26-member board.

More than half the board members have relatives with developmental disabilities. Locke does not.

As president, Locke will oversee the management of the public relations, communications and fund-raising activities of what he said has become one of the largest private, nonprofit service providers to adults and children with disabilities in the state.

Alan Lovell, who has served as executive director and chief executive officer of CHI Centers for 17 years, said his organization selected Locke as its new president because of "his skills, vision for the agency and commitment to the people it serves."

Locke said his new position has given him an opportunity to give back to the community where he and his wife, Ann, raised three daughters. All of his daughters are grown, and two of them work with developmentally disabled students in the county school system.

With revenues of $9 million, CHI Centers continually strives to give its clients the increased independence and productivity to enrich their lives and make them part of mainstream society, Locke said.

"You know what really offends me: the way people treat the developmentally disabled on the Metro," Locke said. "Many of our clients use the Metro to go to work, but people act like there is something offensive about it. They avert their eyes and walk away. We need to make Mr. and Mrs. Maryland aware of the fact that those we serve have assets."

CHI Centers has placed the developmentally disabled in a variety of jobs. Clients work in mailrooms, laundries, bakeries and movie theaters throughout the area.

Originally founded in 1948 by parents of children with cerebral palsy, CHI Centers now serves approximately 900 people from Washington, D.C., and Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties with a range of disabilities. The group operates a child center preschool and adult day, residential, vocational training and supported employment programs.

"The county and the state have been very supportive of our programs," Locke said. "The real gap is in the public sector. We need to get more people involved -- employees, volunteers, donors. We have an opportunity for everyone."