The residents of Lanier and Mercer Homes in Sanford are ready to start their morning at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) new Day Program for developmentally disabled residents located at Oak Ranch near Broadway. Instructor Victoria Mespelt calls the group to circle around the American flag that 51-year-old Debbie holds. They recite the Pledge of Allegiance in unison.
“We begin every day with the pledge, a devotion and prayer,” Mespelt says. “Our students don’t let us forget. Many share prayer requests – it’s a very important part of their day.”
The day program was created after the local community college began phasing out the school’s compensatory education classes – classes designed specifically for students with special needs. Many of the Homes’ residents participated. The college hoped to transition students into adult basic education classes offered, but several of the students from the Sanford homes were unable to make the change.
BCH’s Developmental Disabilities director (DDM) Peggy Pennington and key staff members looked into existing day programs in the area for the residents.
“The options were very limited,” says Pennington. “So, we began talking about producing our own day program. We outlined what the program would look like and presented a proposal to BCH’s administration. Once we got a go ahead, we started the task of making it a reality.”
The group interviewed residents and their family members. They visited the successful day program at Holy Angels in Belmont for ideas and chose “A Meaningful Day” as the curriculum.
The planning group knew they wanted the students actively involved in planning daily activities. The “A Meaningful Day” curriculum was perfect in helping to make that happen. The curriculum provides learning opportunities in a wide range of areas including: educational (math, reading and geography); life skills learning healthy eating habits, proper exercise and social skills; and opportunities for educational and fun field trips, volunteering in the community, and arts and crafts learning times.
The Day Program opened in April utilizing the existing school building at Oak Ranch. BCH’s Oak Ranch is home to two Family Care cottages. Family Care is a program for moms and their children and is designed to help mothers transition to successful, independent living.
“Oak Ranch has been the perfect place for us to begin the Day Program,” Pennington says. “The students benefit from the equine program and the interaction with the moms and their children. Our hope is to see the program here grow and perhaps to see day programs started in other areas where we have DDM homes.”
Debbie, one of the first residents to live at Lanier Home, says it best: “I like the Day Program because it works for me. The teachers are helping, and I’m learning so much.”
Learn more about the Development Disabilities Program at https://www.bchfamily.org/help/ddm