Friday, July 20, 2018
News Roundup

Training opens doors for those with developmental disabilities

TAMPA

Fighting the status quo snowballed for Jim Freyvogel from an upsetting incident in high school nearly 50 years ago. He never stopped thinking about Pete, a student with developmental disabilities, getting pelted in snowball fights on the way home from school. "I had three options," Freyvogel said. He could just keep walking, join the offense or come to Pete's defense, which the popular, varsity third baseman always did. "But Pete had no options."

Since then, Freyvogel, 66, has created options for thousands of developmentally disabled individuals as president and CEO of the MacDonald Training Center, and previously during 23 years with the Florida Department of Children & Families. Under his leadership, intellectually, medically and physically challenged people have become independent, productive members of society. His role in shutting down four Florida state institutions ranks at the top of his resume.

Many more options resulted from contracting capable MacDonald Training Center clients to pack, sew and ship Sun Passes, transportation department vests and flags, and medications, among other products. They gained job skills and a paycheck; the training center earned revenue to offset funding cuts for programs at the Cypress Street headquarters and the James Ranch in Plant City.

Freyvogel, who lives in the West Tampa Historic District, keeps his passport current and a suitcase ready. His father's job in the steel industry meant moving around the Midwest until at 19, he joined the Air Force. Assigned to the U.S. Security Service, "which no longer exists," he notes, fed his wanderlust. After four years based in Okinawa, Japan, and Brindisi, Italy, he followed a girlfriend to Tampa, where he graduated from the University of South Florida in 1975.

Traveling broadens your perspective, the father of two daughters and grandfather of two boys told Times reporter Amy Scherzer, and opens the mind to a world of possibilities.

The MTC business model works on many levels, job skills and income for clients and operating revenue for programs. Ultimately, do you hope clients and the center can function independently of government funding?

The concept comes from that snowball fight nearly 50 years ago, to empower people to live the lives they choose, not what other people choose for them.

Expanding our philosophy to partner with businesses in the community generated an additional $1.2 million net. That's still short about $400,000 a year. Luckily, we anticipated government cuts, so we were able to mitigate to some degree.

People expected to do simple repetitive tasks have been successful in packaging and shipping over 5.2 million SunPasses with fewer than 400 errors in six years. About 140 trainees get paid, by piecework or an hourly rate. When they get to the point of earning minimum wage, they're out of MTC. It's time to get a job in the community. They've been segregated from society too long.

As part of your advocacy, the state shut down institutions in Orlando, Fort Myers, Tallahassee and Miami, and MTC got rid of 14 group homes. Was that a bureaucratic nightmare?

I am proud to have played a part in the movement to deinstitutionalize over 6,000 people in Florida. Getting people out of state institutions, returning them to their communities and their families, was a new skill. To reintegrate people wasn't always easy.

MTC sold all of its licensed residential facilities 11 years ago for a new model of living where we bring services to people in their own homes. We provide residential services for 60 adults at the level of support they need. We coach how to shop and pay bills or, if needed, provide hourly or live-in companions.

Creating two fine arts studios (at MTC) resulted in explosions of creativity. Teaching paint by number, how to stay inside the lines, that's ridiculous. It's almost a metaphor. What's so important about staying inside the lines?

Traveling is so important to you, ever since your overseas military service, and you encourage everyone to spend time visiting other cultures. What places were especially eye-opening and meaningful?

I thrive on change. I love nothing more than to jump on a train or a plane and in a couple of hours, be in a place I've never been before.

I traveled extensively in the Far East during the Cultural Revolution. I was probably one of the people who brought the Hong Kong Flu back to the U.S. in 1968, before they even had a name for it. I apologize for that.

Auschwitz had a profound effect on me. You don't understand the depth of the cruelty unless you see it. And the horrendous bloodletting in Mostar, Bosnia, where 7,200 Muslim citizens were slaughtered in one day, Now the Christians and Muslims are reconciling.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris caught me by surprise. Famous people buried there, Isadora Duncan, Victor Hugo, Jim Morrison, had their names chiseled on huge monuments. Now it's in disrepair, the names washed off by acid rain. It made me realize the futility of trying to be immortal.

We only have a limited time, you should live life to the fullest.

Is there one place you can never get enough of, and where are you off to next?

Assisi, Italy, is my favorite place to relax. I went to school there for a while and I speak functional, not fluent, Italian. I really love it there.

My next trip, with my partner Lorin Campbell, will be on the Trans Siberian Railway, from Moscow to Beijing.

Sunday conversation is edited for brevity and clarity. Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or call (813) 226-3332.

Comments
Largo woman, rescuers save beached whale on Indian Shores

Largo woman, rescuers save beached whale on Indian Shores

Times Staff Writer INDIAN SHORES — The sun had yet to rise. A strong breeze from the Gulf of Mexico cooled the otherwise warm and muggy Indian Shores beach. The surf was choppy Friday morning as Bonnie Charity began her daily walk, unlike some days w...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Rays dream big but follow trend in plans for smaller stadium

Tampa Bay Rays dream big but follow trend in plans for smaller stadium

TAMPA — When it comes to filling a ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays are Major League Baseball’s perennial bottom-dweller. The team has finished last in average attendance the past six seasons at Tropicana Field. As of the All-Star game, the ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
17 killed when duck boat sinks during storm in Missouri, police say

17 killed when duck boat sinks during storm in Missouri, police say

The duck boat was coasting through the waters of Table Rock Lake on Thursday night when the weather began to pick up. It had been a nice summer day in southern Missouri, recalled one person who was on a nearby boat, before the storm suddenly moved in...
Updated: 1 hour ago

State record of $321 million in unclaimed property back to residents and businesses

More than $321 million was returned to Florida residents and businesses from the state’s unclaimed property in the past fiscal year.Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis took office in July 2017 and said this year’s total broke last year’s rec...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Biletnikoff Award sleeps on USF’s Tyre McCants

Biletnikoff Award sleeps on USF’s Tyre McCants

Since USF's transition (or demotion, depending on one's perspective) to the American Athletic Conference, screams of Power Five bias steadily have resonated throughout its fan base.In some cases, the outcries are warranted. In others, they ooze whini...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Rays dream big but follow trend in plan for smaller stadium; Pinellas parking lot argument leads to possible stand-your-ground fatal shooting; and more

Top 5 at noon: Rays dream big but follow trend in plan for smaller stadium; Pinellas parking lot argument leads to possible stand-your-ground fatal shooting; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:RAYS DREAM BIG BUT FOLLOW TREND IN PLAN FOR SMALLER STADIUMThe new ballpark design the Rays unveiled two weeks ago will have room for just 30,842 spectators, making it the smallest venue in t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college football’s offensive masterminds?

Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college football’s offensive masterminds?

With offensive-minded head coaches taking over Florida and Florida State, we wanted to know how the recent offensive successes of Dan Mullen and Willie Taggart rank among their peers.After crunching thousands of numbers, here's our answer: Not as hig...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pinellas parking space argument leads to possible ‘stand your ground’ fatal shooting

Pinellas parking space argument leads to possible ‘stand your ground’ fatal shooting

CLEARWATER — The car was still idling Thursday when Michael Drejka approached it wearing dark-tinted sunglasses.He told the driver, Britany Jacobs, she was parked in a handicap spot and needed to move. She said she would as soon as her boyfriend and ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Carlton: Rotary Clubs support no-women-allowed dinner. What year is this?

Going "stag" sounds so old-fashioned — boys night out, sans the gals. But it’s not so outdated in certain Rotary clubs in the Brandon suburbs and still rural Plant City. There, the decades-old no-women-allowed tradition of the yearly sta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Watch: Florida woman brought to tears upon realizing she left her 8-month-old son in a hot car

Watch: Florida woman brought to tears upon realizing she left her 8-month-old son in a hot car

A Volusia County woman was brought to tears on Tuesday after she returned to her car to see her 8-month-old son still alive and healthy after she left him inside with the windows closed.Accompanying her baby, however, was a Volusia County deputy.Meag...
Updated: 1 hour ago