$112,000 stuffs Family Support stocking | RecordCourier.com

$112,000 stuffs Family Support stocking

by Sarah Hauck
shauck@recordcourier.com

A stocking stuffer in the shape of a pair of checks for more than $112,000 made Family Support Council of Douglas County's Christmas a lot brighter on Monday.

The donation from The Dean Seeman Foundation will create a program to help developmentally disabled adults in Douglas County.

"This has been a culmination of almost a year's worth of work with the Seeman Foundation to determine how best to meet the needs of Douglas County," Executive Director Steve Decker said. "The final amounts were a surprise. They were much greater than we expected."

The donation will establish Jessie's Ranch, named after Valley rancher Dean Seeman's sister, who had Down Syndrome, to help provide a day program and living support provider.

There is no nonprofit in the area to provide assistance to families with adult individuals with disabilities.

"If a child graduates from the school district (at age 21) because they age out, there is nowhere for them to stay living and working in Douglas County," Decker said. "A vast majority of individuals are forced out of the county to seek services."

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Since Dean's passing in 2008, Dean Seeman Foundation Trustees Judy Keele and Mike Gilbert have been working to distribute the foundation's funds to organizations Seeman would have done himself.

The school district initially approached the Seeman Foundation about creating a program for developmentally disabled adults, but the council took it on.

"With Steve Decker coming on the scene he renewed our hope for this kind of program," Keele said. "We kind of gave up that hope. Now it is like the original dream is back."

The initial $101,000 donation will help obtain the state and federal approval needed to provide supportive living and employment services to adults with developmental disorders, to keep them in Douglas County with their families.

"Our concern is growth and development of healthy families, and that includes families without violence; families with a mentally disabled adult are six times more likely to have violence. It is within our overall mission interest to assist families struggling with this issue to succeed," Decker said.

"We want to help them be a part of our society and live and be independent," Decker said.

Nearly 500 adults should be living in Douglas County with their families, however, have had to travel to as far as Texas to receive the help they need.

Douglas County's percentage of the adult population living with a developmental disability is 2 percent, compared to the national average of 6 percent.

"What we do is going to be individual-based as opposed to a group home or group employment," Decker said. "Everyone with a disability has a unique need for support."

The council will be holding an open forum Jan. 28 for families of individuals with developmental disabilities to find out about the new programs and what would beneficial.

Decker said the donation not only helps kick start the new Jessie's Ranch program, it is beneficial to the community as a whole.

"Currently every resident of Douglas County is paying a tax that would normally serve adults on Medicaid, because no one is using those funds, they have been sent elsewhere," he said. "By bringing our children home that means that our tax dollars are able to stay in the county."

Jessie's Ranch will also provide the county with employment for caregivers for the adults who may require more daily assistance, Decker said.

Some adults who need 24/7 assistance requires a team of five caregivers.

"We will be bringing a huge number of jobs here," Decker said. "If I can only provide services to 10 people, that's 50 full-time employees. That's a huge deal. I can't even put into words how big of a deal this is."

The council hopes to have Jessie's Ranch established by next spring.

Also the council received a $11,000 donation for a CPR/First Aid/AED training course.

"Not enough people are trained to react to life threatening emergencies," Decker said.

Anyone interested in attending should call 782-8692.

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