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News Community Spotlight shines on ‘rare gems’ in Macon County

Macon Citizens Habilities staff members Jim Graham, Human Resource Manager; Jeannie Garrett, MCH Executive Director; and Kathy Duvall, MCE Manager relax at the end of a long day.Tucked away on a side road just a short distance from downtown Franklin, one of the real gems of Macon County is the base of operations for providing day services to a lesser known, but no less important, segment of our society. Macon Citizens Habilities, Inc. (MCH) builds lives and gives dignity to citizens who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This vibrant organization that now provides excellent residential and day services for the 50-plus clients has its roots in a support group formed in 1981 by parents, professionals and other people interested in helping citizens with disabilities. MCH was incorporated in 1982. Later, non-profit status was granted and state and national accreditation was earned. The first group home opened in 1988, followed by several others.

As the organization grew and expanded, the inevitable obstacles popped up. Financial difficulties and some community resistance to the construction of group homes arose, but a dedicated, and determined group of people persisted, establishing MCH as a facility recognized in North Carolina for high standards of excellence. Even today, maintaining these high standards requires diligence in seeking out new sources of revenue to support the work.

MCH currently maintains six residential group homes in Macon and Jackson counties, as well as providing day services for its clients at the Lake Emory Road center. More than 70 professional, administrative and paraprofessional staff members are employed to provide necessary services for its clients.

During the years of growth and three name changes, MCH developed the present mission statement for the organization: “Macon Citizens Habilities advocates for and protects the right of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. MCH provides comprehensive residential and day services.” The organizational brochure describes MCH as a private, non-profit organization offering community-based residential and prevocational services to persons with intellectual disabilities.

Fifty-plus clients come to the center daily to learn, not only in the academic sense, but how to function in the larger community around them.

The center offers prevocational activities of daily living, recreation and social training. Many tasks taken for granted by the average person are learned and developed through diligence and repetition with loving, consistent, and patient guidance of the dedicated staff of MCH.

In the day services facility, the clients have areas where they participate in activities to prepare them for life’s daily activities. They have access to a fully equipped, supervised fitness center, a separate classroom for academic instruction, and a production area where greeting cards are made and prepared for sale. A new greenhouse, which is presently under construction, will be made available for client training and work.

In one area, clients learn the skill of shopping for groceries matching their lists and product pictures with grocery products on the shelves. Others may be hanging clothing properly on racks. Color matching, counting, basic computer games and skills, reading, and writing are only a few of the many activities designed to enhance the client’s learning experience. The enrichment program includes arts, crafts and a weekly music program.

Successful completion for tasks result in all the normal expressions of joy, pride, and accomplishment for a job well done. Praise and encouragement flow abundantly, not only from staff members, but also between clients.

In addition to on site activities, clients are exposed to community activities where they learn to function socially. They are taken to the theater (Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts); they bowl and participate in an annual bowling tournament. Shopping, eating out at local restaurants, and field trips are also on the calendar. One of the high points of the year is preparation for and participation in the Special Olympics the first part of May.

During the course of the next few weeks readers of The Macon County News will be introduced to some of the “Real Gems” at MCH. You will learn more about what is happening behind the scenes to promote a better quality of life for these wonderful individuals so they can become productive citizens in the communities in which they live. The focus at MCH is not on what clients cannot do, but rather on the things they can learn to do. Adults with learning and physical disabilities can contribute to and participate in sports, social functions, businesses, and can maintain close personal relationships. These “Real Gems” may be walking close by more often than is realized. The purpose is to bring awareness to the uniqueness of this segment of our society and erase some of the stigma that may be associated with these individuals.

Information on Macon Citizens Habilites may be found on its website at http://www.maconcitizens.org/, and on the organizational brochure.

For a nonprofit organization to survive, financial donations are essential to help pay the bills. Care and maintenance of the group homes and physical properties comes with a cost. Even in a difficult economy, the bills must be paid in order to continue providing care for those in our midst who cannot fend for themselves. Information about donating may also be found at http://www.maconcitizens.org/, or call the administrative office at (828)524-5888.





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published: 10/18/2013
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