The York County Shelter Programs Inc. will be renamed the Donald H. Gean Center for Human Services in honor of the man who founded the agency 30 years ago, the board of directors announced Wednesday.

Board members voted unanimously in support of the name change to recognize the long service of Gean, who retired last year. Described by those who worked with him as a visionary, Gean grew the program from a small shelter in a condemned jail to an innovative network of programs that now includes mental health and substance abuse treatment, vocational training and a pathway to homeownership.

The agency now serves 400 clients with an emergency shelter, a bakery staffed by program clients, a working farm and housing across York County. It operates with an annual budget of more than $5 million.

“I would be hard pressed to imagine a greater honor that having my name attached to the most exciting … effort to help poor folks I’ve ever known,” Gean said. “The leadership, staff, board members and volunteers all conspire daily to find new and better ways to provide that help, and I remain fascinated by their ingenuity. I can hardly wait to see what they do in the next 30 years.”

Roger Prince, board president, said Gean made it his life’s mission to serve people and “changed the way that social services agencies operate.”

“There’s one word I always think of when I think of Don, and that is visionary,” Wes Phinney, a former York County sheriff, told the Portland Press Herald last year. “He’s not just a visionary who has ideas; he gets things done. This agency has evolved into a model program when it comes to how you deal with the challenge of homelessness. He is a true activist and advocate.”

Earlier this month, the agency announced it had reached a deal to buy its 300-acre campus on Shaker Hill in Alfred from the Brothers of Christian Instruction, who have owned the land since 1931. The agency began leasing parts of the property in 1985 when Gean moved the York County Alcoholism Shelter out of the jail and started expanding services to support clients as they moved into permanent housing.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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