Journeys in Community Living has been dedicated since 1975 to supporting adults with intellectual disabilities as they choose and realize their personal visions of how they want to live, work and socialize.
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Heart Tree Project returns to make Christmas special for those with intellectual disabilities
It’s once again time to make Christmas special for people with intellectual disabilities in Rutherford & Cannon County.
The Heart Tree Project will return to Journeys in Community Living’s main facility on Haley Road on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and will remain there through Dec. 18. Journeys in Community Living is a local nonprofit that has served people with intellectual disabilities in this area since 1975. The agency supports the individuals as they come to realize their own personal visions of how and where they choose to live, work and socialize.
The Heart Tree works like this: Any community member can call or visit Journeys’ main facility between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to get the information needed to fulfill the Christmas wishes of one or more of the agency’s Heart Tree recipients. The agency’s phone number is 615-890-4389. The physical address is 1130 Haley Rd., Murfreesboro, TN 37129 (the facility is down the street from the county convenience center just off Highway 231 South and Middle Tennessee Boulevard).
People served by Journeys are selected to be beneficiaries of the Heart Tree based on a set of criteria set by the agency. Situations taken into account include whether an individual has any living family in the area and whether family can afford a gift for their loved one.
Donors who visit in person will be able to pick out one or more ornaments with a requested item written on them. Those who call will receive information on one or more items (as requested) that are associated with ornaments hanging on the Heart Tree.
The majority of items on the Heart Tree are simple things like clothing, including socks, shirts and pants, said Journeys Development Coordinator Mark Bell. Each individual selected to submit needed items to the wish list may also submit one item that may be a bit more costly (but still within most household budgets). Examples from the past include movies on DVD, inexpensive watches and earrings.
“Our wonderful Rutherford & Cannon county community members have made this effort successful every year for more than a decade,” Bell said. “It has shown everyone it touches that the giving spirit is still alive and well in our area.”
Donors must return items to Journeys no later than Dec. 18 to ensure the gifts reach their destination by Christmas morning, he added. Each gift is going to a household that might not otherwise have any gifts under the Christmas tree come the morning of Dec. 25 without the action of the donor.
“We do ask that our donors wrap each item before returning them if possible, and that the paper ornament they picked up be taped to the exterior of each item so we can properly keep track of everything,” Bell said. “If wrapping gifts isn’t your specialty, then we can wrap them here at the center, but we still ask that the ornament be returned so we can keep up with what is going where.”
Wrapped items that are returned without an ornament will unfortunately result in the “ruining of a perfectly good wrapping job,” Bell joked.
While individual donors are always appreciated and actually account for the most Heart Tree donations each year, Journeys is also hoping to partner with area businesses this year for the Heart Tree. For example, over the past several years Publix Store No. 1234 on New Salem Highway in Murfreesboro has collected about a dozen items for Journeys’ Heart Tree.
“Publix has always done an awesome job with the Heart Tree, and we’re hoping other area businesses will join us in making the Heart Tree even more successful this year,” Bell said. “Any business that would like to partner with us this year can call my personal cellphone at 615-295-3046 anytime.”
Last year for the second time since 2013 Journeys ended up with a totally ‘ornament-less’ Heart Tree in the agency’s lobby, Bell added. “That’s actually a good thing,” he added, “since that means every person’s Heart Tree request was fulfilled. Even better, the agency actually ended up adding a second round of ornaments to the Heart Tree in 2014 thanks to the success of the project. We try to address the greatest needs first, so we held off on adding a few of the requested items until we ran out early last year.”
The Heart Tree project began several years ago when Journeys’ Human Resources Director Rachel Burch saw the need for such a project and came up with an idea to address that need. The project continues to grow and Burch continues to be involved in organizing and running the project.
George Cunningham, the agency’s director, said Burch’s Heart Tree has become a tradition at Journeys.
“Even though our program is focused on making the individuals we serve more independent 364 days out of the year, we recognize the importance of the Heart Tree Project and what it represents at this very special time of the year,” Cunningham said.
Journeys currently serves approximately 120 people through its programs, which includes a Residential Program, Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Multi-County Transportation Program, HealthCare Oversight Program and Community Day Program.
The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties helps fund the agency’s HealthCare Oversight Program, which aids individuals with intellectual disabilities in keeping track of and getting treatment for their often-complicated medical conditions. The organization’s programs are primarily funded by the state of Tennessee, with Rutherford County Government and the City of Murfreesboro also providing funding. The organization also accepts private donations.
Those who wish to request information from an ornament by phone or who would like more information on Journeys’ programs can call the nonprofit between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 615-890-4389, ext. 45. More information on Journeys can also be found online at www.journeystn.org.
Several Journeys staff members promoted as part of Transition and Quality Improvement plans
Several staff members at Journeys deserve congratulations for having recently been promoted under changes outlined in the agency’s Quality Improvement and Transition plans.
The promotions were announced shortly after George Cunningham was named the agency’s next director.
Frances Cook will take George’s old post as Assistant Director, with many of her day-to-day duties remaining the same. However, as assistant director Frances will be in charge of the organization anytime George is out of the office.
Felicia Oliver has been named Residential Director, putting her in charge of all residential supervisors and the Residential Program, Residential Community Day Program and all personal assistants.
Kyle Hendrickson has been named the Program Services Director and will be over all matters related to ISPs, therapy plans, circles of support, pre-plannings, service plans and the TIMAS client documentation. Kyle will also take over supervising the transportation program and will be more involved with incident management.
Sherry Stack will be promoted to an agency case manager, and Whitney Leake has been named a residential supervisor. LaCretia Greer will become the new house manager at Toddington.
Cunningham said he “looks forward to working with everyone in keeping Journeys an exceptional support agency for people with disabilities.”
Journeys thanks Mayor Ernest Burgess for helping out with Guess Who Contest
The staff and people served by local nonprofit Journeys in Community Living would like to thank Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess for being this year’s Mystery Guest in association with the 2015 Fall Social for people with intellectual disabilities.
It was Burgess who donned the garb of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle character Michelangelo in an effort to raise funds for the nonprofit. Members of the community were invited to guess on www.journeystn.org for a chance to win prizes, including an autographed photo of Country Music star Charlie Daniels.
“The mayor was a very good sport through the entire process, and we would like to thank him for giving back to the community, as he has done for many years now,” said Journeys Development Coordinator Mark Bell.
Journeys had around 100 people with intellectual disabilities attend the Fall Social, which was held this past Friday, Oct. 23 at Dance Murfreesboro. The space was donated by Becky and Steve Lanham of Dance Murfreesboro.
The event was sponsored by First Vision Bank and several local media outlets, including WGNS Radio, The Daily News Journal and the Murfreesboro Post, who helped get the word out about the contest ahead of the event. Al Gordon and Larry Ralston Photography Studio provided portrait services for attendees.
Those who would like to show their thanks for Burgess’ contribution to the event are encouraged to donate to Journeys either by sending a check to the Development Department, 1130 Haley Rd., Murfreesboro, TN or by going to Journeys donation page online. Those wishing to donate via phone may do so by calling Mark Bell at 615-295-3046.
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Journeys in Community Living
1130 Haley Rd., Murfreesboro, Tenn. 37129
Business Line:(615)890-4389 | Fax: (615)849-8727
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