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News Community ‘Green Hearts’ creates purpose for MCH clients

A greenhouse under construction will provide income as well as educational opportunities for MCH clients.Second article in the series explores financial aspects.

Editor's note: Macon County News contributor Harry Taylor is a teacher at Macon Citizens Habilities Inc. (MCH) and is writing a series of articles regarding the operation of MCH. MCH builds lives and gives dignity to citizens who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This second article in the series emphasizes finances and the search for new ways to generate money to care for the clients of MCH. The clients in this endeavor have been impressed to show that they do have, in their own way, a part in establishing their own destiny. Even though many of them have severe/profound intellectual and developmental disabilities, each one has a place and a purpose in this life.

As an instructor, it is exciting to watch them tackle their tasks with determination and diligence that belies their abilities.

"Green. . . the paper is recycled. Hearts. . . the product comes from the hands and the heart of each worker, totally handmade from paper recycled by clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities." Taken from a poster in the Macon Citizens Enterprises (MCE) card production room.The poster captures the essence of the clients’ contribution toward the function of Macon Citizens Habilities (MCH).

Clients are learning to pot plants.Though financial assistance comes in from outside sources, MCH clients generate additional income. Labor performed by clients is recorded and they are paid for all time spent working, whether it is in the greeting card production, cleaning floors, working in the snack shack, or any number of other jobs.

Payday comes once a month for them. Excitement and anticipation grow as mid-month begins to get near. When the checks arrive, it truly is like Christmas morning. “Job well done!”

The most fascinating products coming out of MCE are from its own “green” industry. Clients create hand-made greeting cards to distribute for sale using all recycled materials and with minimal energy consumption. A variety of holiday cards, special occasion cards, or specialty cards is available.

The production of the cards is divided into several simple steps, each performed by a client with skills suitable for each task. The process begins with shredded office documents from the MCH shredders. Shredded paper is mixed with water and blended in the most sophisticated piece of equipment in the card room, a Ninja blender. The resultant slurry is spread on a tile to dry, forming paper. The paper is cut, folded and formed into greeting cards and envelopes. Even the paste used on the flap of the envelope is made onsite from simple and natural ingredients.

MCH administration buildingGreeting cards may be purchased on the MCH website (www.maconcitizens.org), or through several retail outlets in the local area. The price of the cards is comparable to prices found in gift and specialty shops. All profits from this enterprise are used to pay the clients and to support the MCH facility in Franklin.

A second source of income from direct client labor is some piecework done for Caterpillar Corporation. Caterpillar sends bulk boxes of specialty wipes to MCH. These wipes are taken out, folded, bagged and sealed in plastic bags ? two wipes in each bag. The wipes are then sent back to Caterpillar where they are used in a production process to clean specific parts. Clients are paid according to the work they are able to perform.

The clients also participate in newsletter distribution. The printed newsletters are sent to MCE, where the clients fold, tape and prepare the newsletters for distribution.

A great deal of excitement and expectation surrounds a project planned for this spring (2014). It is still a work in progress, but projected to be productive this spring and for many seasons to come. Near the front of the property, a large, new greenhouse has taken shape. The plan is to market plants – not only to provide income for MCH, but also to the clients who work there. Clients will be trained to pot the soil, plant seeds, nurture and sell the plants grown.

MCH is in an ongoing search for sources of revenue in the world of a nonprofit corporation. Donations, grants, and government programs all begin to wither up and disappear during periods of economic distress. Therefore, keeping the boat afloat can be a real challenge, calling for resilience, determination and creativity in order to generate operational funds to care for the MCH clients’ welfare.

Caterpillar has commissioned MCH clients to fold and package wipes that are used to clean specific parts.According to Robert Edwards, MCH assistant director, the large majority of revenue for MCH comes from the North Carolina Medicaid Program (92 percent in 2013, and 89 percent in 2012). This program provides for reimbursement of allowable expenses, up to a maximum level. Some additional state funding contributes additional monies to supplement this income.

Donations come in from local governmental agencies and through grants from foundations. Macon County currently donates approximately $62,500 per year to MCH. The parking lot was paved by a grant through the Sisters of Mercy. A major grant from Kate B. Reynolds funded the fitness center, and the Cannon Foundation provided vinyl siding for the MCH fitness center and administrative building. Currently, an Evergreen Foundation grant is funding a portion of the cost for the new greenhouse being built on the facility grounds.

Most of the remaining funds come from private citizens and supporters of the work of MCH. These donations can be made in the form of restricted or unrestricted funds. Very simply, restricted donations are designated for specific projects or uses. Use of unrestricted funds is determined by the organization according to its priorities and needs.

Bits of paper are recycled and repurposed for creating greeting cards.As a long-term goal, MCH is setting aside unrestricted donations to create an endowment through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The minimum amount of money required to open an endowment is $25,000. This money would be used as a financial buffer in times of declining economy or for unexpected need for revenue.

Some revenue does, however, come in from families of clients whose families are able to pay the cost of their care at MCH. But realistically and practically speaking, this level of care is simply beyond the ability of the average family to pay.

Every community has people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, but the clients at MCH are Franklin’s own special people. They are our brothers, our sisters, our friends and our responsibility. They are a part of this community and they help to define our humanity in our willingness to help them achieve dignity and quality of life due to all human beings.

Consider assisting these “rare gems” with money and support. It is one investment that can never be regretted and the dividends will be evident in the faces of those clients who are given the opportunity to be productive citizens in the community. Additional information can be found on the website at www.maconcitizens.org, or email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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