ASDD: Making a difference

 

By Raymond L. Daye
 
Whether working around the center or at a job in the community, or enjoying shooting basketball or working out on the exercise machines, the thing that strikes the casual observer most is the ever-present smile on the faces.
 
They are called “clients,” but they are treated more like family by the paid employees and volunteers of the Avoyelles Society for the Developmentally Disabled (ASDD) -- more commonly known as Silver Lining, after its Silver Lining Pie Company program.
 
ASDD  President Jocelyn Meaux said the agency has about 40 clients and a waiting list of individuals who want to participate. A staff of 14 employees works with the individuals -- all of whom are developmentally disabled adults. Lauren “Teenie” Laborde is the center director.
 
When this visit occurred, staff and clients were all excited about the upcoming roast pig fundraiser set for Sunday (April 19) from 10-1:30 p.m.
 
Angelo Piazza Jr. was on site, inspecting his 14-pig cooking pit and talking with those who will benefit from the event. Piazza will be the master chef for the fundraiser.
 
“If this comes out before the pig roast, be sure to let people know that they can buy tickets at the door after 11 a.m.,” he said. Tickets are $8.
 
ASDD began in the late 1980’s as part of a state program to provide care for developmentally disabled adults between the ages of 21 and 65.
“It was designed to take care of them after they left high school,” Meaux said.
 
ASDD board member Scotty Scott said the intent was to “help these individuals get into the community and be productive.”
 
The mission statement of the organization closely tracks Scott’s description -- “to help see  individuals with developmental disabilities grow to their fullest potential and develop opportunities for each individual by meeting their needs, providing job opportunities, quality training and support which enables them to become productive individuals of our community.”
 
ASDD receives some funding from the state, but it covers only a portion of the operating expenses. They must also obtain state approval before any additional clients can be enrolled in the program.
 
Help from grants
Grants from non-profits, businesses and individuals have enabled the organization to expand its programs.
 
A grant from Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. allowed the creation of the greenhouse program, where clients grow shrubs, trees and other plants for sale to the community. Paragon Casino Resort supports the organization by selling clients’ ceramic work at the casino and providing a grant to allow the creation of the Wagon Wheel Gift Shop at the ASDD center at 377 Moreau St., Marksville. 
 
The clients come from all corners of the parish. They are picked up at their homes every day and brought to the center. They are taken home at 2 p.m., which is the end of the program’s day.
 
If they work in the community, a “job coach” goes with them -- although only the client does the job for which they are being paid.
 
Board member Philip Bartell said the organization has lost some community jobs over the past few years. Jobs such as cleaning offices and lawn care are jobs many of the clients are capable of doing. The work must be done during the work day, which is a drawback for many businesses, he said. The clients must do their work between the hours of 8 a.m. and   2 p.m.
 
The ASDD receives assistance from the state on the vans for the program, but the organization is  still responsible for a large part of the cost of the vehicle and for all maintenance and operation costs.
 
Four fundraisers
It has four major fundraisers a year. The pig roast is the latest, but the “La Cuisine” event on the last Saturday in July is the biggest. A fall gumbo and a direct-appeal fundraiser round out the four events.
 
Meaux said Silver Lining is appreciative of all of the individuals who open their hearts and checkbooks to help them help the clients. The corporate sponsors such as  Roy O. Martin, Paragon and Cleco play a large part in the program’s success. It also receives some funding through the United Way.
 
“Operating costs, like supplies, fuel, salaries, building notes and insurance -- and insurance should probably be in all capital letters -- keep going up, “ Bartell said, “but funding is either a straight line or declining.”
 
While the ASDD is best known for Silver Lining Pie Company, and somewhat known for its community work program, other services provided to its clients may not be so well known.
 
“For those requiring less assistance, we offer classes to help them with math and spelling,” Bartell said.
 
Many of the clients love music, so ASDD puts on dances with music. It also provides many other types of activities for its clients.
 
Bartell heads up the parish’s Special Olympics program. He stressed that the Special Olympics is operated independently from the other programs and is “completely self-supporting” through donations made specifically for the Special Olympics.
 
Avoyelles Olympians have won gold, silver and bronze medals at past state Special Olympics.
 
Meaux said another key factor in the organization’s ability to survive in a grim economy is the willingness of Avoyelles Parish people to volunteer their time and talents to the program.
 
Some volunteers have deeply personal reasons for their involvement and their passion for the participants of Silver Lining. Others may not have a personal connection with developmental disability, just a love of people and a yearning to help those in need of their help.
 
Whatever the reason and the path that brought them there, it is surely worth it when they can witness the smile on a man’s face as he proudly states, “That’s my name in cursive,” or sees a young woman in a wheelchair raise her arms as she  sends the basketball through the hoop.
 
Small victories to most. But victory is victory.
 

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