October 11, 2013

Werner Braun: Orange Grove: Providing care, hope and meaningful work

— One of the rewards of being in a club, for me the Capital City Rotary Club in Dalton, is getting to know more about all the good work being done by members of our local, and even our greater, community.

During a recent presentation at Rotary I had the experience of learning a great deal more about an organization in Chattanooga that is doing amazing work but may not be particularly well known to those of us who spend most of our time in Dalton.

It’s called the Orange Grove Center, and for the past 60 years the center has been providing meaningful services and life-enriching interventions for those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In recent years, Orange Grove’s staff of more than 750 employees has served approximately 708 individuals ranging between the ages of 8 and 86 who have some sort of disability, disabilities such as those suffered by Chad Campbell, a young man who was healthy at birth, but who sustained major head trauma in an automobile accident as an infant and was never able to achieve significant developmental milestones on his own.

Fortunately for his family, Chad began receiving services at Orange Grove as a young boy. Sadly, Chad died earlier this year, but for most of his 35 years of life he received individualized support from an organization which his family members believe improved their whole family’s quality of life.

As a nationwide leader in the field of providing services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled, Orange Grove provides children’s services, adult education, vocational opportunities and residential services, just to name a few.

Located next to Memorial Hospital in downtown Chattanooga, Orange Grove serves approximately 70 children in a year-round academic, curriculum-based program using Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) coordinated by certified special education teachers and assistants.

Orange Grove also serves adults with adult education programs and vocational opportunities. Many area businesses support these adult service programs by providing jobs for these individuals. For example, about 10 businesses or entities in the area, including the Chattanooga Bakery, Tennessee Valley Authority, Erlanger and Memorial hospitals and the Incline Railway, provided 107 people with meaningful jobs over the past year.

And equally as impressive, the Walter A. Lerch Industrial Training Center (ITC) employed more than 156 folks who earn paychecks, doing such tasks as packaging, sorting, labeling, heat sealing and assembling through contacts with 11 businesses from various manufacturing, printing, automotive and food service industries.

I’m proud to say that one of the Carpet and Rug Institute’s members, Shaw Industries, is among those businesses that have been able to provide jobs for many of those adults, some of whom assembled carpet samples.

Orange Grove is also very involved in recycling efforts. More than 130 people were employed last year in its John F. Germ Recycling Center, which accepts and sorts recyclables from curbside programs, area drop-off centers and businesses and schools throughout Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

And like our Carpet Area Recovery Effort (CARE), which diverts millions of pounds of post-consumer carpet from the landfills each year, the John F. Germ Recycling Center diverts paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel cans, plastics and glass bottles from the landfill — to the tune of 10 million diverted pounds last year.

But Orange Grove’s beyond-the-Tennessee-border reach is not just limited to its recycling efforts. Orange Grove also supports a relatively new Georgia Services Program, and more than $150,000 has been pledged over three years to provide sustainable services to many of the eligible individuals who live in north Georgia.

Georgia individuals in Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties are now able to participate in Orange Grove’s new Ringgold location as well as in its Chattanooga facility. Nearly 40 individuals are supported through the Georgia program, where they are eligible to receive pre-vocational services, community access programs and supported employment opportunities.

That’s good for those of us living over the Tennessee line, and we applaud their efforts of expanding services south of the border.

If you, like me, want to know more about Orange Grove and its mission, visit its website at   www.orangegrovecenter.org.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.