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June 5, 2006

Center for the deaf to close

From: Winston-Salem Journal, NC - Jun 5, 2006

Some are worried that many will have to go to Greensboro for services

By Mary Giunca

After 31 years, the Forsyth Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is closing.

Some local advocates are worried that an estimated 27,500 people will be without necessary resources, services and referrals.

And they are working to establish a new center that will be known as North Carolina for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The United Way of Forsyth County, which gave the Forsyth Center about $120,000 last year, worked with The Enrichment Center to reach the decision on the closing, said Eric Aft, the vice president of community planning and investment with the United Way. The Forsyth Center, a private nonprofit organization, is housed at The Enrichment Center on South Marshall Street.

Concerns about duplicating services led to the decision to close the center at the end of the month.

The Forsyth Center offers similar services to the regional office of the state department of health and human services in Greensboro. The office is adding three new staff positions and expanding its services in Forsyth County, Louis Pugh, the executive director of The Enrichment Center, said in a written statement.

The Forsyth Center has provided a number of services to the community through the years, said Angela Blevins, a hard-of-hearing specialist who works at the center.

The center provides sign-language interpreters and classes, case management, independent-living classes, financial assistance for hearing aids and a loan program for devices for the deaf.

The center serves about 800 people a month, Blevins said.

Mary Crump of Welcome, who has a son who is deaf, said she is troubled by a plan that she believes will leave many people who are deaf and hard of hearing without valuable resources.

"The deaf community is not going to be able to get the services they need by having to go to Greensboro," she said. "These people don't have the funds to go to Greensboro."

Crump said that the Forsyth Center has provided crucial support and that she has referred a number of people there through the years.

The library has an extensive collection of books, videotapes and magazines. Through the center's social programs, Crump found role models for her son, and she met there to practice sign language with interpreters, she said.

"It helped me to understand more about deaf culture," she said. "It helped me to find the technology that's available."

Lauren Azevedo will be the president of North Carolina for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a new nonprofit organization that will be in the Winston Tower and will open June 15.

That agency will offer a similar range of services to those that were offered by the Forsyth Center, she said.

The deaf and hard of hearing need interpreters to help them understand the correspondence that they receive from various social service agencies, she said, and to help with such basic needs as grocery shopping.

"There are elderly deaf and hard of hearing people who don't have food," she said. "It's so basic and critical. The hearing culture is not aware of the deaf unless they have a deaf or hard-of-hearing person in their family."

• Mary Giunca can be reached at 727-4089 or at

© 2006 Winston-Salem Journal. The Winston-Salem Journal is a Media General newspaper.