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Brother's Keeper launches new education, enrichment program

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 10, 2016 at 8:32 PM

Brother's Keeper has launched its new education and enrichment program for local adults with intellectual disabilities and limited opportunities beyond high school.

After several years of visioning, planning and fundraising, the faith-based, nonprofit program opened July 1 at Boones Creek Christian Church with two instructors, an educational director and an inaugural class of six students who are very happy to be back among their peers.

A grand opening is planned for Monday, July 25, and co-founders Cecile Huddleston and Deborah Grant are encouraging community members to come and learn more about the program and join the staff and students as they celebrate the start of a what promises to be a richer future for the program’s participants.

An open house will begin at 11 a.m. Guests should come to entrances D or J of the church at 305 Christian Church Road. An opening ceremony will be conducted in the church gymnasium at 11:30 and facility tours will be available until 1 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP by calling Brother’s Keeper at 423-268-4624 or emailing info@BrothersKeeperTN.org.

Huddleston said all of the students are two to six years beyond their high school graduation and in need of prayer as they acclimate to program’s Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. schedule.

At the end of the day on Friday, after their first full week back at school, the students were still full of excitement obviously glad to be together.

Randy, one of the most skilled speakers in his class, said he had most enjoyed their daily devotions, leading the class in prayer and basketball in the gym. When he closed their day with prayer, Randy prayed for their safety over the weekend and gave thanks for a wonderful day and for Brother’s Keeper.

As a faith-based organization, Grant said everyone at Brother’s Keeper appreciates the freedom they have to express their religion,

Sammi, the tallest and most outspoken of the women of her class, said she had most enjoyed basketball, kickball, dancing and singing with her classmates. Her academic focus for the day had been on her own telephone number.

Because of the extended time the program’s participants have spent away from a structured classroom, Huddleston said, “We’re beginning by capitalizing on and reiterating the things they learned in school, continuing to learn with emphasis on practical, life skills, and exploring interests.”

“It’s a work in progress,” Brother’s Keeper Educational Director Ashlee Almaroad said. “All of the participants have been out of school a minimum of two years and they’re so excited to be here, to have the fellowship of socializing with each other.”

“We’re loving this program, absolutely loving it,” Brother’s Keeper participant Rebecca Moody’s mother, Paula, said. “We’re so glad Rebecca has something fun to do everyday and all the friends she has here. This is an awesome program and we are tickled pink.’’

To help Brother’s Keeper in its launch, Huddleston and Grant are asking the community for prayer as well as financial support.

In the program’s most recent newsletter, they expressed appreciation for the “tremendous support” it has received so far and said they consider it an affirmation that the community believes in its mission to educate, empower and engage adults with intellectual disabilities.

“Your contributions have enabled us to complete the necessary steps of site preparation, licensing, and hiring of staff,” they wrote, noting that donations are being used for supplies, computers, furniture, program and curriculum tools, adaptive equipment and other necessities for the program’s startup.

With the program underway, Brother’s Keeper is continuing its drive and seeking monthly donors that Huddleston and Grant said will be crucial to meeting the program’s monthly budget obligations.

More information about the program and how to help can be found online at www.BrothersKeeperTN.org, facebook.com/BrothersKeeperTN, instagram.com/BrothersKeeperTN and twitter.com/BrotherKeeperTN, or may be obtained by calling Brother’s Keeper.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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