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While there are morning religious services and Sunday sermons

, most of the programs focus on personal and work-training skills to help clients cope with everyday living. Child development classes assist children through age 3, who are bused to the facility each day and taught basic skills from eating to reading.

For those 18 and over, work assimilation training teaches skills that could place clients in jobs around town. Clients are paid minimum wage when they work at the center unloading items at the Lighthouse thrift store, where the center sells donated clothing, appliances and home furnishings, or doing their part to make quilts the center sells for $20 each. “We try to get work for them but it’s difficult,” said Margaret Eggenbeen, a volunteer.

The jobs aren’t always the most desirable sweeping up at the gas station or helping at the local hardware store but they help provide a sense of purpose and a few extra dollars. Those who are unemployable find purpose in something as small as collecting aluminum cans for recycling. For an area that suffers unemployment as high as 20 percent in an agricultural-based economy, any type of regular job is hard to come by. “We have economic problems in the area,” Evans said. “The fact that employers are employing them on a part-time basis says something for our community.”

The local community isn’t the only group supporting the center. Volunteers from around the country make up the majority of the staff. While there are only six regulars during the summer months, the winter brings a host of people from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Canada to help at the facility. “They’re trying to escape the cold weather,” said Eggenbeen, a Wisconsin native who has been volunteering at Handihaven for 19 years. For six months each year, she and her husband, both retired, make the trek to Rolling Fork to live and work at the facility. She handles the reception area, while he helps with small repairs around the old grain processing plant that was converted into apartment buildings and work space 19 years ago.

Although the number of clients Handihaven serves may seem small about 130 are enrolled in the center’s different programs the effect on the lives of each individual is immeasurable. Friday nights, the men and women of the group home visit Chuck’s Dairy Bar to splurge on milkshakes and fries. Saturday afternoon often finds them playing kickball in the park. By maintaining careful watch over each individual’s finances, budgeting Social Security checks and any other financial support, the clients have extra for personal purchases like birthday gifts and even CD players. They’ve even paid their way for a three-day cruise to the Bahamas, visited the Majesty of Spain exhibit in Jackson, and planned to travel to New Orleans to see the Saints play.

Nathaniel, a well-spoken man in his late 30s, has been a part of the “independent living” at Handihaven for almost 10 years. He lives in an apartment, and has maintained a job at a nearby company for two years major accomplishments, and he’s proud of them. He enjoys playing basketball, reading and writing, just like most of us. But when asked if he could accomplish anything, what would it be? “I like doing all kinds of things,” he said with complete self-confidence. “I’m capable of doing anything.”

While there are morning religious services and Sunday sermons, most of the programs focus on personal and work-training skills to help clients cope with everyday living. Child development classes assist children through age 3, who are bused to the facility each day and taught basic skills from eating to reading.

For those 18 and over, work assimilation training teaches skills that could place clients in jobs around town. Clients are paid minimum wage when they work at the center unloading items at the Lighthouse thrift store, where the center sells donated clothing, appliances and home furnishings, or doing their part to make quilts the center sells for $20 each. “We try to get work for them but it’s difficult,” said Margaret Eggenbeen, a volunteer.

The jobs aren’t always the most desirable sweeping up at the gas station or helping at the local hardware store but they help provide a sense of purpose and a few extra dollars. Those who are unemployable find purpose in something as small as collecting aluminum cans for recycling. For an area that suffers unemployment as high as 20 percent in an agricultural-based economy, any type of regular job is hard to come by. “We have economic problems in the area,” Evans said. “The fact that employers are employing them on a part-time basis says something for our community.”

The local community isn’t the only group supporting the center. Volunteers from around the country make up the majority of the staff. While there are only six regulars during the summer months, the winter brings a host of people from Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even Canada to help at the facility. “They’re trying to escape the cold weather,” said Eggenbeen, a Wisconsin native who has been volunteering at Handihaven for 19 years. For six months each year, she and her husband, both retired, make the trek to Rolling Fork to live and work at the facility. She handles the reception area, while he helps with small repairs around the old grain processing plant that was converted into apartment buildings and work space 19 years ago.

Although the number of clients Handihaven serves may seem small about 130 are enrolled in the center’s different programs the effect on the lives of each individual is immeasurable. Friday nights, the men and women of the group home visit Chuck’s Dairy Bar to splurge on milkshakes and fries. Saturday afternoon often finds them playing kickball in the park. By maintaining careful watch over each individual’s finances, budgeting Social Security checks and any other financial support, the clients have extra for personal purchases like birthday gifts and even CD players. They’ve even paid their way for a three-day cruise to the Bahamas, visited the Majesty of Spain exhibit in Jackson, and planned to travel to New Orleans to see the Saints play.

Nathaniel, a well-spoken man in his late 30s, has been a part of the “independent living” at Handihaven for almost 10 years. He lives in an apartment, and has maintained a job at a nearby company for two years major accomplishments, and he’s proud of them. He enjoys playing basketball, reading and writing, just like most of us. But when asked if he could accomplish anything, what would it be? “I like doing all kinds of things,” he said with complete self-confidence. “I’m capable of doing anything.”