Re-posted from The Pocono Record.
Linda Albertson of Sciota left high school in 1965 at the age of 17, with few options for the future.
The petite girl was born legally blind and with intellectual disabilities.
She was unemployable.
She didn’t fit into the model of society that existed in the 1960s. Programs for the disabled were rare. People like Linda were either institutionalized or kept behind closed doors.
Society didn’t believe their lives had value.
Yet Linda’s parents, like others with disabled children, wanted to make her life meaningful. Parents like Linda’s led to the creation of Burnley in 1964. Burnley is a vocational rehabilitation facility that provides training and employment, all focused on giving individuals with disabilities opportunities for a meaningful, purposeful life.
Linda was among the original employees in 1965, when the workshop received its first major contract, to solder parts of a tiny amplifier for the Army. The client — the Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Linda had a rocky start.
She became frustrated with her vision problems, and that made her difficult to work with. Linda’s disabilities led to confidence issues.
Day after day, she’d say “I can’t do it.” Yet each time, a supervisor would tell her, “You CAN do it.”
Their patience and encouragement made the difference.
Eventually, Linda became the workshop’s most skilled worker, assembling by hand 6-foot wire brushes for the Weiler Corp.
And with that came confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Qualities we all, disabled or not, strive to achieve.
For Linda, having self-confidence brought her out and helped her to make friends.
That’s one of the things that Burnley does. It doesn’t just give people jobs. It exists because it believes in a person’s potential. Burnley helps them to be the best versions of themselves, the workshop’s Charlotte Wright said.
Linda, now 65, wore a rosey red velvet dress accessorized with a well-coordinated red beret when we met. My initial impression of her thick glasses and reluctant speech faded quickly behind her dignity and personality.
Linda tired during our late afternoon conversation and her head began to slump. I asked her what she does with the money she earns at Burnley.
Linda sat straight up, her shoulders back, her eyes looking right at mine. “I save it,” she said proudly.
Linda is Burnley’s longest employed worker, celebrating 49 years there. She’s just one of a small group who have reached retirement age but refuse, choosing to work instead.
Burnley has existed for 50 years because of the community’s goodwill.
That’s what it will take to ensure it’ll be around another 50 years from now.
And I believe it will.
Because there are people in this world who value every life.