Photo caption: Standing in the gazebo at the Nacogdoches Treatment Center from left are the center's Chairman of the Board of Directors Charlotte Ashcraft, past Director Scotty Sherrill and Director Kathy Strong. (Photo by Terri Thompson-Wade)
Treatment Center named Non-Profit of the Year
by Kelly Daniel
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce board of directors have named the Nacogdoches Treatment Center as the recipient of the first Non-Profit of the Year Award sponsored by Charles Pool Real Estate, Inc.
The Treatment Center will celebrate its 45th anniversary in October, and one might wonder what Mary Van Hoorn, the center's founder, would think about the uncountable number of people that have been helped, healed and nurtured because of her vision.
The former and first Director Scotty Sherrill recalls the beginnings of the center and its services to the community. "As Director of Physical Therapy at Memorial Hospital, Mary saw patients released and sent home who still needed physical therapy," Sherrill said. "She wanted to open something in Nacogdoches that would provide physical therapy, free of charge if necessary."
In 1972, Van Hoorn found the building where the center is currently located on Hughes St., and she approached the owner, the City of Nacogdoches. Most likely, a combination of persuasive speaking from a woman who was passionate about the mission and the City understanding the need for the facility and its services resulted in an agreement to lease the facility for a dollar a year.
"She had a full-time job at the hospital, so she needed a director for the center," Sherrill said. "I was looking for a job after my oldest daughter graduated high school and started to college. We discussed the position and the salary, and she hired me."
Van Hoorn was active with patient evaluations, but the number of people quickly increased to the point that hiring a full-time therapist was needed. The center's staff continued to grow as children utilized the services, many coming during the school day from the Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary. An occupational therapist and a speech therapist were added to meet the needs.
Funding was important, and one of Sherrill's responsibilities was raising money for the center. Sherrill said "the Lord provided through individuals who supported the center with organized fundraising and through grants from government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education and private foundations such as The Temple Foundation as well as others. When the local United Way began they accepted the center as an agency, and that also supplied a great amount of support."
In order for the Nacogdoches Treatment Center to begin it had to become a 501 (c) 3. In order for that to happen a volunteer board of directors had to be assembled and documents such as articles of incorporation, bylaws and others were submitted to the IRS and the State of Texas. The exempt status was granted making it possible to provide a number of services to the community.
"Through SFA, we were able to have a swim program using the university's pool with Patti Goodrum serving as the program director," Sherrill said. "We were able to secure a bus through TxDOT and provide transportation for our clients."
A support group for family members continued the outreach, and several building programs met the demand for building more rooms onto the facility.
Due to the rehabilitation of those who came to the Treatment Center many were ready to re-enter their past lives and live independently, but at that time Nacogdoches did not have accessible housing. The Treatment Center board felt this was a much needed project and gave Sherrill the go ahead to obtain funding through a HUD grant to develop accessible apartments so individuals with disabilities could live independently and have inclusion in our community. A separate non-profit was formed to oversee this project and Independence Manor was located on Pruitt Hill in 1980 and then Independence Manor II in 1984.
In 1990, with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Work Connection program began to assist people with disabilities in gaining access to gainful employment. The program worked with individuals with disabilities of all types in learning how to manage a major disability and work. It provided a job developer to match the client and an appropriate employer. It even expanded to Lufkin and partnered with the Adult Learning Center there. The program ran for 14 years and was directed by Peggy Muckelroy.
By 1995, the number of physical therapy service provider had grown throughout the city, and therefore the need for the center to offer these services was no longer a priority. An evaluation of the community's needs was conducted and it was determined that Nacogdoches needed services for the growing population of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementias. Therefore, the board discontinued the PT and OT programs and began renovating the building to provide a day activity program for individuals with dementia.
Sherrill made the decision to retire in 1996 with close to 25 years of leading the center. This prompted a search for a new director. More than a dozen applied, and board members and staff were pleased when Kathy Strong, Sherrill's daughter, was hired for the position.
"With her experience as a special education teacher and director of Independence Manor II, Kathy was a perfect fit," Sherrill said. In addition, Strong had years of experience at the center as a volunteer starting when she was in high school.
The moment of "filling her mother's shoes" was realized by Strong on the day of the ribbon cutting for the new program and retirement reception for her mom. She forgot to bring her dress shoes to work, and later, she would be in the spotlight, speaking to a group. To help with the problem, her mother offered a pair from her closet. Strong enjoys that memory of the feeling she had, knowing that she was in her mother's shoes, but "it would be a challenge to walk in her footsteps."
"We have always been blessed with a board that has a vision," Strong said.
The current board of directors led by Chairman Charlotte Ashcraft are Carla Morgan, Robbie Goodrich, Drew Knowles, Raymond Robins, Frances Nations, Mitzi Perritt, Mary Jo Lees, Raymond Robbins, Dorothy Tigner-Thompson, Tim Clipson and new board member Jennifer Sowell.
"The staff members make it easy to serve on the board," Ashcraft said. "We believe in the center's mission to provide services that are not being met by another agency or organization in the community and to provide these services regardless of the individual’s ability to pay.” We are a good mix of community leaders with different talents, and that makes for a good group to work on strategic planning and policy issues."
With support from the board of directors and other volunteers, the center creates a unique fundraiser that locals consider a tradition. The Christmas Bazaar this year will be Thursday evening November 9 and continue on Friday. Ashcraft promises guests will enjoy a delicious chicken spaghetti lunch that has been provided by Cotton Patch for many years, in addition to shopping unique, handmade items, an amazing bake sale and a silent auction.
Strong credits a solid staff of six along with her board for the center's success. Activities Director Sandy Fortenberry has worked at the center for 17 years and according to Strong, "was made for the job with her gifts and abilities to connect with the clients."
The services for clients with dementia began on January 2, 1997 as a three-day program but it quickly grew to a five day a week program from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Fortenberry organizes activities designed to stimulate memory and to facilitate interaction and communication with others. That could include listening to music, singing, playing games, doing light exercises and visiting with each other. “We also like to engage them in activities in our community, so you may see us out an about if there are special events going on in town,” Strong said.
"This is their group, their peers, where they fit," Strong said. "The best description was given by a client who said 'when I go there, I get to be who I am, not who I was.'"
Strong has also managed to extend services by utilizing local resources and finding help when needed from other organizations. SFA students volunteer and fill internship requirements. Lunches come from the Senior Center and on special days, from the Pilot Club. Entertainment is provided by church choirs and community choruses. The Nacogdoches Junior Forum helps with the caregivers support group by providing a meal while the group meets. Several organizations have replaced appliances and equipment when needed.
Because of the continued generosity and support, the center has never turned anyone away. In fact, more services are added as the needs are identified.
In 2007, a "respite weekend" was made possible. A limited number of clients may stay at the center for a weekend once a month, allowing caregivers to visit family out of town, enjoy special occasions with others and have time to recharge. The Center offers twice monthly caregiver support group meetings and stress management classes for caregivers, too.
The Nacogdoches Treatment Center provides a service coordinator for Independence Manor. Michael Stevenson holds that position, and he is able to help new residents living with disabilities settle in to their new apartments and access services they require to live independently.
Strong is excited to report the next advancement in the center's services. "The purchase of a house not far from the facility is in progress," she said. "This will be a personal care home for three individuals to live and receive 24-hour care as they travel this long journey with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.”
Strong said "the next big goal will be to build a new facility that can house at least 16 clients," and with the center's record of meeting its goals, she makes that statement with confidence.
"The center has been able to successfully evolve as the needs in the community have changed," she said. "It is an independent organization without any affiliation to a state or federal program. It is a unique organization that the community supports, and the benefits are appreciated by so many."
The Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce will honor the Nacogdoches Treatment Center as the Non-Profit of the Year at its 96th Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet presented by The Fredonia Hotel and Convention Center on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Tickets are $40, and sponsorships are available that offer corporate recognition. For more information, contact the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce at 936-560-5533.