LENA MITCHELL: March is Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

LENA MITCHELL

LENA MITCHELL

Alcorn Industries opened its doors last week to show the public and the business community what they do for their clients – people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities – and what the clients have to offer the community.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan designated March as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, asking “all Americans to join me in according to our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”

Two decades earlier, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson established The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (formerly The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation).

Many families in Mississippi, and throughout the nation, have members who benefit from the services that Alcorn Industries offers. They are part of the network of sheltered workshops operated by the North Mississippi Regional Center in Oxford.

Their purpose is to provide pre-vocational training and employment for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Directors of these facilities, like Therray Taylor in Corinth, seek opportunities to place their clients in local businesses to improve their skills as well as show employers that they make effective, reliable employees. They also provide some services to businesses through their in-house training programs.

For many years I have had a close association with individuals who work in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Washington, D.C. area.

At the Mamie D. Lee School, the D.C. public school which serves intellectually and developmentally disabled students, Louisville, Miss. native Audrey Hudson runs the program for students that is similar to the work of Alcorn Industries.

While I worked in marketing for a health care organization serving the Washington and Baltimore markets, Audrey’s classes would assemble mailings for my clients and their employees. Any time our organization needed materials mailed out in the hundreds or thousands, Audrey’s class got the job, and earned income that helped the school’s bottom line and raised their self-esteem.

Another Mamie D. Lee staff member, a speech and language pathologist, was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President’s Committee three years ago. She and other members of the Committee are always looking for ways to raise awareness and provide improved services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Alcorn Industries’ Taylor is a regular visitor to Alcorn County and Corinth city board meetings, urging these public officials to get behind the agency’s goals and help provide real-life training for them, and to encourage local business and industry to do the same.

Among those who have responded favorably are Caterpillar, Coca-Cola Bottling Works, Kroger and others.

The schools do their part to give our intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens the basic tools they need to learn. The sheltered workshops pick up from there and teach them work skills, life skills and independent thinking and living skills.

Pay attention when one of the North Mississippi Regional Centers calls on you for help – Alcorn Industries, Corinth; Calhoun Industries, Bruce; Itawamba Industries, Fulton; Lafayette Industries, Oxford; Lee Industries, Verona; Marshall Industries, Holly Springs; Pontotoc Industries, Pontotoc; Prentiss Industries, Booneville; or Tishomingo Industries, Iuka.

One of your family members may one day be calling on them.

Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter and writes a Sunday column each month. Contact her at lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

• North Mississippi Regional Center, Oxford, (662) 513-7726, email jlyons@nmrc.state.ms.us