Freedom Valley Disability Enablement, Inc.

Empowering People with Disabilities to Empower Themselves

Phone:   610 353-6640 ext. 101

Administrative Director /

Information Technology Manager

Michael P. Burke

Hi. I’m Mike, the Administrative Director / Information Technology Manager at Freedom Valley. That means I am supposed to fill in for the boss when she is not here, and make sure the computer and technology stuff all works. 

Over the years I have held a number of jobs, with a wide variety of skills being developed as a result.  I started working at 14 with a summer job at a farm. Man, that was hard work! Sun up

to sundown using every muscle and making lots of sweat.  After two years I knew that while there was a lot of satisfaction in doing a hard day of work, the hard work on a farm was not for me.  At 16, I went looking elsewhere.

“Elsewhere” turned out to be a part-time evening job carrying meals at a restaurant. I became a waiter next, and finally moved full time into the kitchen as a cook.  The skills I found at that job have provided me with a little extra income many times over the years.

I went into the Air Force in 1977 at the age of 19. My first Technical Training school was in Monterey, California, where I learned Arabic.  Then a few years later, the Air Force sent me back to school again to learn Russian. I never spoke either fluently, but my listening, reading and writing skills were fluent. Unfortunately, after 20+ years of non-use those skills are almost nonexistent.

I left the Air Force in 1985, went back to school (again) and graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Russian Studies and International Economics.

Not many jobs were forthcoming at that time, so I ended up working at a bank. 

Here is an interesting thing about all this; I did it all with a serious disability.

After numerous hospitalizations in the late 80’s through and early 90’s,  I ended up in an institutional setting by March of 1997. While some good people were helping me, the situation itself was unacceptable, I worked hard in therapy and in 2000 once again was living on my own.

I came to Freedom Valley as a volunteer in January of 1997 while still living in a community rehab center. I had just completed certification as a Microsoft Systems Engineer and Small Business Solutions Provider. Over time, I spread out from only running the computer system here into managing staff and projects.

There are a lot of things I would like to say about Freedom Valley, but I think maybe if I cover what is most important to me that will be enough. Freedom Valley is about living. Living is about making choices and finding out what happens. Living is about doing it again, and again, and again just to get better at it.  

Everyone at Freedom Valley Disability Center has some area of Independent Living that is important to them. For me it is Autonomy. The right to decide for myself and enjoy the results while experiencing the consequences of my decisions. That, for me, the core of Independent Living. To me “Independent Living” and “Autonomy” are almost the same. The right to enjoy the fruits of your labor and efforts come with the concurrent burden of experiencing the results of errors or bad decisions. 

Sometimes what I do here makes me tired, sometimes what I see and hear from other folks with disabilities makes me proud, or sad or desperate, but mostly I find hope here, seeing in today a chance that tomorrow we can all be better people.

Freedom Valley Disability Enablement, Inc.

Empowering People with Disabilities to Empower Themselves