William Bengel’s mother sent him to Camp High Hopes, a program for children with disabilities, during the mid-’70s. Although very young at the time, Bengel recalls many of the activities he enjoyed there.
He learned new skills and gained self-confidence at the camp, then located in North Charleston. But the thing that made the biggest difference was meeting Frances Roy, the camp’s director.
Those were times when not much was expected of people with disabilities, but Roy was always encouraging, says Bengel, now 45.
Roy, who was born Oct. 17, 1937, died Nov. 7.
“She had a heart of gold,” Bengel says. Roy became his mentor, a second mother, who encouraged him to aim ever higher, he says. He would become one of many who simply referred to her as “Mama Roy.”
“She would always say ‘You can do it. I have faith in you. Don’t let yourself down.’ It’s kind of lonely without her here. I think in my heart she would always want us to keep going.”
With her help, Bengel says, he exceeded his expectations of what his life could be like. For the past 15 years, he has been baking bread, cookies, cheese wafers and benne seed wafers at Delicious Delights. It’s a bakery Roy founded with her husband, Joseph Roy, and friend Reika Demassi to teach employment skills to those with disabilities.
“We have 26 consumers that work here and we have put 10 consumers into outside jobs,” says Debi Roy, the bakery’s program manager and Frances Roy’s daughter.
“She started the bakery in 1985 and worked here up until she died,” Roy says. The bakery moved under the Disabilities Board of Charleston County in 1992.
They bake breads that go to the Lowcountry Food Bank, Justine’s Kitchen, Tabbuli’s Grill and Toast Restaurant, Debi Roy says.
Frances Roy didn’t start out to work with the disabled, her daughter says. She had been a bus driver for Blessed Sacrament School when Camp High Hopes, then located in Hampton Park, was looking for someone to drive its children to camp.
She took the volunteer position and never stopped working to help improve the lives of those with disabilities, Debi Roy says.
She developed such a love for the children with special needs that she stayed on to run the program after the death of Georgia Reilly, the director who recruited her.
“She stayed on because of her love for those with special needs. She was able to make them feel like they were not special needs. She took them under her wing.
“Someone told her ‘You will never be able to teach those with special needs to hold down a job or teach them how to work. “You can’t train them to work in the community.’ That was one of her biggest peeves.’
“She used to always tell everybody ‘Never give up. Keep moving forward.’ ‘I can’t’ was never in her dictionary.”
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.