A path to possible: Nonprofit creates program for adults with disabilities

Published 5:54 pm Friday, March 12, 2021

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One local nonprofit is improving the wellbeing of individuals with disabilities in Troup County. 

After receiving its 501c3 nonprofit status in early 2020, The Exceptional Way began working to create a day program and facility in Troup County to promote social and relationship development, along with community involvement for individuals with disabilities.

The nonprofit was able to raise more than $360,000 with the help of the Callaway Foundation and local donations to open the facility. The Exceptional Way will provide year-round, up to 40 hours a week, social and recreational services for adult individuals with disabilities. 

Program secretary Jodi Mazzolini said she has been working with parents and friends to create something for children for when they age out of the school system at 22. 

Now, she’s seeing that come to fruition. 

Three years ago, Mazzolini and fellow board members went to Auburn to an Exceptional Foundation to learn more about what they could do in Troup County. 

“We just brainstormed with them and got lots of great information, and they were really helpful,” Mazzolini said. “Two years ago, myself, Laurie Wilder and a few other board members sat down at the library and said, ‘let’s brainstorm and let’s do this.’  Then, we met with the board, everybody was on board and two years later here we are.” 

The nonprofit was able to get funding quickly despite the pandemic.

“We aren’t a faith-based organization, but faith is my base and a lot of our board members’ base,” said board member George Childress. “I just think God has been working on this. Nevertheless, I think the miraculous thing I have seen was people found out about it’ and the funding just came. We did one small fundraiser that really only raised about $5,000. Other than that, we sent our emails and phone calls and got more than $170,000 through that. The Callaway Foundation matched our $180,000.” 

The program will start out with 20 participants and currently still has room for a few more applicants. Currently, the program will be operating out of a building near Rosemont Baptist Church that the church rented out. 

“Twenty participants are about how much this space and our staff can handle right now,” Executive Director Cindy Skipworth said. “We want to offer them some really cool things to do and things that will add value to their lives. We want to work on life skills and things to help them be all they were created to be.” 

Skipworth said they want to create a space for participants to have a place where they feel wanted and included. 

“After they age out the school system at 21 or 22m there’s not really any opportunities here in LaGrange,” Skipworth said. “A lot of them are just at home with their parents, but we will have a space for them to get outside and be part of a community.” 

If applicants meet the participant criteria, an interview will be set up with the participant and a parent or guardian to review the program, get to know one another, tour the facility and answer any questions.

Skipworth said that the admission criteria ensures that the physical, cognitive and medical needs of a participant can be met in a setting which has a least a 10 to one participant to staff ratio. 

“For this staffing model to work, participants must not require one-on-one assistance for basic needs such as toileting and eating,” she noted. “They must be able to follow simple commands and participate in daily activities with minimal assistance from staff. Participants should also display a basic level of social maturity to interact with the other participants in a meaningful way.”

Skipworth added that it is for adults of all ages. Currently, the program is also still seeking donations to gear up for the 2021 and 2022 year. 

For more information on the program or to donate, visit theexceptionalway.org or call (706) 668-1465. 

“I am just so excited to get to open and meet all of our participants,” Mazzolini said. 

“I just think it’s just going to be such a fun place to be.”