The Story of Easter Seals Southern Georgia
In 1941 Mrs. Carl Huie made a vow that nothing would stop her until she had activated a rehabilitation center in Albany to serve people with disabilities in southwest Georgia. She spent the next several years talking to those knowledgeable on rehabilitation centers, speaking to woman’s groups and writing hundreds of letters outlining the need for a center and asking for help. The first center opened on November 25, 1957. In 1970 a new larger center was constructed as the first had come to be inadequate in size for the number of people being served. No one was denied services due to inability to pay. The history of Easter Seals Southern Georgia is much like the history of the nation wide organization Easter Seals.
For many years the focus of Easter Seals was medical rehabilitation. Physical therapy services, speech and audiology services were provided. In 1982, the center received a contract to provide vocational rehabilitation services.
In 1990, the Georgia Easter Seal Society was dissolved and Southwest Georgia Easter Seals became a direct affiliate of the National organization. Later the name was changed to Easter Seals Southern Georgia.
Throughout the 1990’s our organization grew to be multi-faceted and even more responsive to the needs of the region. The traditional medical rehabilitation services continued; however the concentration became school contracts and amputee services. Vocational services and community based work adjustment services expanded during this time.
In 1995, a specialized program for people with traumatic brain injury was begun through funds from the Division of Rehabilitation Services. Not all referrals needed vocational services, so the “Pathways” program was developed in 1996. This program is designed to provide a structured day for people with brain and spinal cord injuries.
The Respite Care/Family Support program was initiated in 1993 through an appropriation from the Georgia General Assembly. Easter Seals operates this program in three regions. Respite Care provides short-term relief to caregivers of people with mental retardation and/or developmental disabilities through in-home or out-of-home care. Some of the services available through Family Support include nutritional supplements, adaptive clothing and equipment, diapers/depends and scholarships for camps and activities.
In 1994 funding was obtained from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to construct group homes in Vienna and Unadilla for adults with mental retardation. In 1996, additional grants were awarded for a group home in Tifton and a ten-unit apartment complex in Ashburn. Since then a group home has been built in Cordele and apartments have been built in Moultrie, Cairo and Valdosta. Work is currently underway on apartments in Waycross.
In 2004, Easter Seals opened the doors to Megan’s House, the only children’s respite home south of Atlanta for medically fragile children. The house is fully accessible and amenities include two bedrooms, one bathroom, full kitchen and a fenced in back yard with playground equipment. The house is conveniently located near the hospital so that physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy services are available if needed by the individual. Respite Care services are available for children who are developmentally disabled, who have a diagnosis of autism or are medically fragile. Megan’s House serves families from a 39 county area in South Georgia. Stays can be less than 24 hours or as long as two weeks. Individuals may be eligible for crisis or scheduled care. Cost is based on a sliding fee scale and scholarships may be available.
One thing that we do each year to promote the reason why we are here and do what we do is have an Adult and Child Ambassador. These individuals are examples of the many success stories that we have on the people that we serve each year.
Easter Seals Southern Georgia has experienced a lot of changes over the years. Programs have been created and others discontinued based on the needs of the individuals in our service area. Throughout all of this, the primary goal of Mrs. Huie has remained our focal point; to provide quality care and services to the people of South Georgia that have special needs.