Published Sunday, February 24, 2013
By MARIANNE THOMASSON
A long, long time ago, many developmentally disabled people were parked in a hidden bedroom. There was little help for them medically. Even the famous cowgirl Dale Evans called her Down Syndrome daughter “Angel Unaware” because she wasn’t expected to live more than about two years.
Things have progressed dramatically. These days, developmentally disabled children, like any others, go to public school until age 21, are mainstreamed into the student population and given special instruction where necessary.
The Newnan community was one of the pioneers of caring for special needs youngsters long before they were taken into schools. The Open Door Center opened in 1968. It has since evolved into the Rutledge Center, where special needs adults (over 21) are given day support and training.
Ronnie Schultz, associate pastor of New Lebanon Baptist Church, also works with the clients of Rutledge.
“We try to help our clients learn skills that will help prepare them to get a job,” he told the Newnan Kiwanis Club at its weekly luncheon at the Newnan Country Club.
Training includes life skills like hygiene, how to dress for an indoor or outdoor job, how to interact with your boss.
The government has allowed a pay scale that makes it easier for clients to earn money, he said.
“They’re paid by the piece,” Schultz said. “When we have a contract with a company, we generally pick up the items, bring them to the center, assemble them and return them.”
In one case, the former Olsonite manufacturing company in Newnan made toilet seats and a number of bolts were required to go with each seat. Clients would package the bolts and either zip-lock seal or heat-seal the little bags, which were then returned to Olsonite.
“Some of our clients have difficulty counting, so we make them diagrams,” Schultz continued. If 10 washers are needed, they use a piece of paper with 10 circles on it and the client puts a washer on each circle.
“Most of us would find this type of work mundane or monotonous, but they enjoy it,” he said. All the work is checked before being returned to the businesses.
“We strive for 100 percent accuracy,” he said.
Clients are also taught the value of money. “We might see there’s a Braves day game in three months and tell the clients so they’ll have enough time to save up for a ticket. Others find it rewarding to contribute to the family household by paying a phone or electric bill,” he said.
Rutledge welcomes piece work from businesses. Interested persons may call Schultz at 770-251-6515 for further information.