AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway employees use a hand-crank chairlift to take Luke Bynon to the level of the passenger car.
Wheelchairs proved to be no barrier to 13 ReDCo Group railfans who took advantage of a clear, cool day last week, to ride the rails from Jim Thorpe into the Lehigh Gorge with Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
The ReDCo Group, based at 616 North St., Jim Thorpe, had been planning the rail excursion for several weeks, only delaying it until the end of July because of the extended period of hot weather.
"With the train ride, our consumers get to experience more of what Carbon County has to offer," said Christine Rovinske, program specialist at the ReDCo Group. "A train ride will give them an experience and let them see a nicer area, like the Lehigh Gorge to get out and enjoy the summer."
The "consumers" at the ReDCo (Regional Development Corporation) Group, visit the Jim Thorpe facility on weekdays, where they are provided services, socialize, and learn independent living skills, such as shopping and computer operation.
ReDCo is a large social services organization, that in 2007 had an annual operating budget of $35 million with greater than 700 employees.
The Jim Thorpe facility has 15 people in its program and four staff members, with programs for those with physical and mental disabilities who can't get around on their own. People typically enter the ReDCo program after high school and may remain in the program until they are senior citizens.
The ReDCo facility is a day center with hours, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members of ReDCo are available for suitable job training, and for volunteer work. For example, they have been helping with recycling at a local printing shop.
Those at ReDCo look forward to outings. They frequently visit Penn's Peak, and their most popular field trip is the fishing trip to the Germantown Grove Club.
ReDCo was established in 1981 to serve as a local sponsor of federally-mandated employment and training activities. The group has programs throughout northeastern Pennsylvania, providing mental health and mental retardation services to residents with autism and other developmental diagnoses.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, located at the Old Mauch Chunk Railroad Station, is wheelchair accessible using a hand-cranked chairlift. The ReDCo Group served up a challenge to the railroad as they had to load, crank, unload and position nearly a dozen wheelchairs onto a regularly scheduled train.
"The railroad staff had quite a workout," noted Rovinske.