AARP Maine is proud to announce that one if its Executive Council members, The Honorable Richard Farnsworth, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maine Association for Community Service Providers (MACSP) Sept. 12.
MACSP is an association of organizations providing supports and services to children and adults with developmental and other cognitive disabilities. The award is given to individuals who have established a consistent record of support for people with disabilities, and Farnsworth has a rich history in this arena.
An activist since the early 1970’s, Farnsworth worked for the State of Maine in Presque Isle. He was involved in efforts to ensure that the state’s special education laws were being carried out in the public schools. He was part of what was then termed the “Bureau of Mental Retardation,” and was the point person for the Bureau in Aroostook County or, as it was known, Region One. It was not uncommon for Farnsworth to take a strong stand on behalf of the Bureau in their efforts to influence the Department of Education and other state departments about the needs of people with developmental disabilities.
Farnsworth firmly believes in the rightness of the cause as a civil rights issue. In the 1990’s Farnsworth realized that the best way to create change was to be actively involved. Whether with Maine’s state association and their activity with the legislature or through individual contact with legislators, Farnsworth believed that the best way to make progress was to reach out and help them understand the issues. The final result was Farnsworth actually ran for office in 1996 and was elected to the House of Representatives. In just two years, Farnsworth made great strides in educating his new colleagues about the needs of people with disabilities and the need for services funding. Farnsworth acknowledges that if there was one thing he learned as a legislator, it is that you don’t do anything by yourself. “It is a team effort based on your ability to convince others of the rightness of the cause,” he says. “That is how you get an appropriation put in or a bill passed.”
Professionally, Farnsworth became the first president of the merged state association now known as MACSP. He has served on a large number of committees and boards that were established to deal with issues around services that involved the provider community.
“Ultimately, the issue is the importance of the people we serve, Farnsworth says. “They always came first. Through countless meetings and testimony before the legislature and committees, they have been the important ones. Whether preschoolers or adults, the issue is to get them the services they need so that they can assume lives as near to normal as possible.”
Farnsworth is a member of AARP Maine’s Executive Council. If his story has inspired you to volunteer, why not contact AARP? We’re always looking for passionate, dedicated individuals to join our team. Call 1-866-554-5380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.