By Louie Graves
Administrator Tim Freel went to his own toolshed for a shovel to turn the earth at the groundbreaking for the new Howard County Children’s Center facility Thursday, Aug. 31.
He declined to use a new, gold-painted shovel, saying that the old dented, scraped and slightly rusty shovel better represented “the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the center to make lives better.”
The groundbreaking was in a flat field just off Honeycutt Road, almost due east of the Howard Memorial Hospital campus.
The land was donated; grants from area industries, utilities and agencies will pay for the new facility — a daycare, a ‘dayhab’ and therapy center for the use of children ages 0-5 at the Rainbow Learning Center, and for the adult clients at the center, a licensed developmental disabilties community-based program.
Construction on the new facility will begin immediately.
Freel was surrounded by some of the HCCC board members and administrative staff for the brief turning of the soil. A crowd of about 50 had ventured to the site, and the rainy outskirts of Hurricane Harvey avoided ruining the event.
Among those in the audience was Liz Bell, the mother of a disabled child who helped found the center in 1971, and served as administrator through the center’s amazing growth until her retirement in 2002 when she was succeeded by Freel, who had been serving on the HCCC board.
“This place is a step up for the children to make them ready for public school,” Freel said. He also noted that disabled and non-disabled children learn together and co-exist at the learning center. “We help children — whether or not they are developmentally delayed.”
The center provides transportation services to the school and to the adult services complex, lo-
cated on the east side of Coleman Creek on the edge of the Howard County fairgrounds. The center provides life skills classes, a sheltered workshop and adult living facilities for clients. Case managers support the clients in their quest for independence.
The center also operates a recycling center, providing employment for clients, and revenue for the center. A clothing recycling effort on North Main St., Nashville, completes the broad array of services.
Freel thanked the staff of the center. “People do not come to work here to make a good living. They are deeply dedicated to our clients.”
According to assistant administrator Rose Ray, the center provides services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, autism, Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy.
Services include transportation; individual case management; day habilitation; physical occupational and speech therapy; supportive living assistance; and independent living skills; life enhancement skills; and employment skills.
The new facility will have a cafeteria; gym/activity center; therapy rooms; a safe room; and a covered dropoff in the back of the building for buses and in front for parents bringing children to the Rainbow Learning Center.
The center serves disabled persons from a wide area. The assistant administrator said the center buses travel 450 miles each day for client transportation.