Habilitation Center for the Handicapped Inc.
22313 Boca Rio Road
Boca Raton, 33433
Serves men and women with developmental disabilities and other special needs from both Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
Habilitation Center for the Handicapped, Inc.
William C. Ferris, Executive Director
22313 Boca Rio Road
Boca Raton, FL 33433
483-4200, Fax: 483-1194
Mission: Helps equip adults with disabilities with the knowledge, skills and behavior necessary to lead useful and productive lives with dignity, respect and independence. Habilitation Center for the Handicapped did not apply for funding. It remains a United Way of Palm Beach County member agency.
Executive director's time in foster care led him down path to social work
By Samantha Frank, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, November 15, 2006.
Bill Ferris sits in his stately Boca Raton office surrounded by mahogany furniture and so many framed photographs on his walls that one would think he collects them.
But Ferris isn't exactly a collector - he's a traveler - and those photographs are his memories.
photo by Brian Lehmann/The Post. Bill Ferris has been the executive director of the Habilitation Center in Boca Raton for the past 21 years. He is pictured in his office, surrounded by photos of his travels. He has visited 109 countries and has collected artifacts from each one.
"My trips go so quickly, so I like to capture things that were special," he said.
His office is covered with unusual artifacts and trinkets from his travels, such as the skull from the Amazon that sits on his desk.
"I like to say it was my predecessor," Ferris said with a laugh.
Ferris, who travels three to four weeks out of the year, spends most of his time at the Habilitation Center in Boca Raton, where he has been the executive director for the past 21 years. The Habilitation Center provides services for more than 200 people who have developmental, emotional and physical disabilities.
Although the center only provides a day program, most of the people who go there live in group homes or a supported living situation.
Ferris enjoys seeing the individuals at the center smile, and he greets them by their first name as he walks by. He also enjoys watching them progress through the years.
"It's a great population to work with, to be able to play a small part in making the most out of their god-given potential."
The Habilitation Center, which was founded in 1978, is on 10 acres of land. It is home to an award-winning manufacturing facility and one of the largest bedding plant nurseries in Palm Beach County. The manufacturing facility has contracts with companies such as Motorola and Tyco.
"People expect the clients to be doing menial tasks, but they're doing extremely sophisticated work," Ferris said.
During Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, the nursery was destroyed, with close to $1 million in losses. After a year of rebuilding, Ferris said the nursery is "even better and stronger than ever."
For those who have severe impairments, the center provides pre-vocational and self-help training.
Ferris said his early life as a foster child led him to his current job. His parents died when he was 12 and 13, and his grandfather died when he was 14. From there he spent time in numerous foster homes until he was finally placed with a "lovely" family.
"After dealing with foster care, I can safely say it was one of the reasons why I entered the field of social services," said Ferris, a Palm Beach resident, who received his masters degree from Barry University..
Sometimes his passions for traveling and helping people come together nicely. About five years ago Ferris was involved with humanitarian aid in Argentina, and he provided consultation about how to deal with those who have developmental disorders.
Ferris first traveled outside the country with his father, right after his mother died. They took a cruise from New York to Bermuda. In his late teen years, Ferris began to travel alone. To date he has visited 109 countries, and he's still counting. The United Nations formally recognizes 192 countries in the world.
One of his favorite trips was to the Taj Mahal in India. "Seeing it illuminated by moonlight is really an experience," Ferris said.
Ferris said he really likes to immerse himself in a culture when he travels. He has stayed in touch with many people he met in other countries. He maintains an e-mail correspondence with a Buddhist monk he met three years ago in Sri Lanka.
His scariest travel experience occurred on a flight from the Ivory Coast (CÙte d'Ivoire) when his plane was diverted to Liberia. The plane landed just after a coup, so the passengers were greeted by soldiers with guns.
"It's always good to come home, but traveling really enriches your perspective," Ferris said. "It makes you think about all the things people take for granted in this country."
Copyright © 2006, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.