"By her actions, she tells a story that everyone needs to hear "

- Leon Smith, Recycling Coordinator

If you’ve ever visited the Recycling Center at Warner Park, you probably know her name: Jewel Jackson!

Ms. Jackson, the OGC Recycling Department's supervisor at that location, has served Orange Grove faithfully for 21 years as of this May. A devoted staff member and friend to all, she is the embodiment of a life lived selflessly, and perhaps more importantly, joyfully.

Ms. Jackson is a fixture in the community: her personality just has that vital spark, and a genuine warmth that translates to every encounter, no matter how small. Anyone who spends any amount of time with her will immediately find that her energy and humor are infectious, and perhaps take that same liveliness with them as they go about their day. Ms. Jackson delights in meeting new people and will always take time to engage with those coming and going from the Recycling Center. In conversation, she has a gift for dissolving barriers and putting people at ease. No one stays a stranger long around Ms. Jackson!

Ms.Jackson’s work ethic is unparalleled, and she has even achieved the feat of working 21 years without ever calling in sick -- not once! On her days off from the Recycling Center, she works in one of our residential homes, where she has built a strong rapport with the individuals there, who love and respect her immensely. Ms. Jackson’s faith is a guiding force in her life. She is very active in her church,and often participates in distributing food donations in the area.


                           Learn More About Recycling

Posted by Orange Grove | Topic: In The News

Tommy Morris' Success Story

July 17th, 2019

My goal was to find Tommy a welcoming environment that would focus on his ABILITIES, not his disability." 

–James Morris, father of Tommy Morris

When Tommy was one year old, behaviors arose that indicated he may have some developmental delays. Tommy’s father, James, sought advice from health care professionals who diagnosed Tommy with a pervasive developmental delay and hyperactivity. 

A diagnosis of hyperactivity carried negative connotations during the 1960s. As a child, Tommy would accidentally break windows, causing his father to be concerned about potential safety hazards. James began to actively search for an inclusive and safe environment that would provide Tommy the necessary supports to excel in life. His search led him to find Orange Grove’s Double G summer camp. 

Double G camp provided the perfect opportunity for fourteen-year-old Tommy to channel his energy in positive, fun activities like swimming, arts and crafts, and sports that highlighted his exceptionally creative and bubbly personality. For the first time, Tommy was able to make friends who loved him for his unique abilities. His extravagant energy, which had previously prevented him from being actively engaged in the community, became a tool that helped him become a leader and the extraordinary individual he is today.

I brought him to camp expecting for him to make friends, but we ended up with family,” 

says James.

Tommy has been a part of the Orange Grove family ever since. He is known around Orange Grove as the “King of Camp” and even has the honor of giving the welcoming and closing speeches for camp each year.

While Tommy still enjoys camp, he also participates in other services that Orange Grove has to offer. After his first year of camp, he enrolled in the Children’s Services program, then moved into the Residential program and joined the Employment/Community Support programs. The Residential program provides 24-hour residential services in  a group-home setting. Each house supports up to four individuals in Orange Grove homes with a house manager and support staff as needed. 

Through the Employment/Community Support programs, Tommy learned how to use his skills to thrive in employment and everyday life. He now works at a recycling drop off center in Chattanooga and much enjoys his role. Tommy’s outgoing demeanor is an asset to him as he advises visitors on what products the center accepts and what needs to be taken to the refuse collection center. “He is very proud of the work he does. When he gets home, he loves to talk to his support staff and housemates about everything that happened during his shift,” says Tommy’s house manager, Kayla Bowlby.

His work ethic has carried over into his daily life. When he is not working, he keeps himself busy by sweeping his neighbors’ porches, raking leaves, and taking their trash to the curb. “When I first moved next door to Tommy’s group home, I woke up week after week on recycling day to find my recycling bin already by the curb,” recalls Tommy’s former neighbor, Dave Lang. “At first, I thought I was forgetting that I had completed this chore the night before. When I discovered that it was Tommy who weekly assists the neighborhood on recycling day, I fell in love with Orange Grove and the individuals they serve.”

James credits Orange Grove for Tommy’s success by providing him the opportunity to explore his unique abilities in a comfortable environment. 

“Tommy would not be where he is today 

without Orange Grove,” James says through 
tears of gratitude.
“Orange Grove is his family, home, and source of happiness.”

Posted by | Topic: In The News

When Robbie Matthews was born, the doctor’s first words to his family were, “He will spend his life as a vegetable and should be put into an institution until he passes away.”

During birth, Robbie suffered from meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS). MAS a serious condition in which a newborn breathes a mixture of meconium (first feces or stool) and amniotic fluid into the lungs around the time of delivery. It is a leading cause of severe illness and death in a newborn. 

Despite Robbie’s prognosis of permanent brain damage, being unable to walk or speak, and a life expectancy of only four years, Robbie’s family made the decision to ignore the doctor’s recommendation of institutionalization. Instead, the Matthews family decided to live every moment as if Robbie had a long life ahead of him. “I just wanted him to know who we were and to live a life full of love,” says Sharon Matthews, Robbie’s mother. Robbie is now 39 and thriving.

Nonverbal doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say. It means that you will need to listen to me with more than just your ears.

by Anonymous

Even from an early age, it was evident that Robbie, despite being nonverbal, functioned well cognitively. “He is a big flirt and has a jovial personality,” says Sharon laughingly recalling the small yet significant moments that indicated Robbie was well aware of his surroundings. “We do not know what he is thinking because he cannot speak, but with a simple look, he can clearly express his feelings.” Toddler-aged Robbie would flash a smile and look of admiration to women, convey frustration with a simple glance when he was woken up early, and be the first person in the room to laugh at jokes. 

Robbie loves his freedom and having his own space. He enjoys going on adventures, especially to the aquarium and to his grandmother’s lakeside home. His hobbies include going to the movies, bowling, swimming, and playing softball with the Dream League.

Orange Grove quickly became a second family to Robbie and his family. Robbie first came to Orange Grove at five years old to participate in the children’s services academic program. He earned his high school diploma at the age of 22. After graduation, Robbie entered Orange Grove’s Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF) adult program. The ICF department provides comprehensive and individualized health care and rehabilitation services - “active treatment” - with the goal of helping each individual maintain as much independence as possible. Typically, individuals served through ICF have the highest care needs and have 24/7/365 staffing, with nursing care available around the clock.

Sharon credits the stimulation Orange Grove’s person-centered programs provide for how well Robbie is doing today. “They knew so much that I would’ve never discovered on my own. They taught our family the best way to position equipment, best treatment practices, and have walked alongside us as we have tackled life’s many challenges,” Sharon states. 

When a rare opportunity arose for Robbie to move into one of Orange Grove’s ICF residential group homes, Sharon faced one of the hardest decisions of her life. However, Robbie’s ear-to-ear grin as he entered his new home was all the proof she needed that he was ready to live an independent life. “It was a bittersweet moment,” says Sharon. “I was terrified of letting him go but overwhelmed with happiness because I never thought he would live long enough to move into a group home.”

Relinquishing total care of a loved one with extensive medical needs yields reasonable fears to anyone. Any of Sharon’s justified fears were alleviated when Orange Grove staff found a personalized solution for Robbie during a medical crisis. Robbie was recovering from back surgery at his group home when his oxygen level became dangerously low. Upon arrival, the emergency medical response team requested an immediate tracheostomy procedure. Determined to prevent further debilitation by trach placement, Orange Grove staff repositioned Robbie with specialized equipment to increase airflow. Orange Grove’s staff expertise, attentiveness, and quick response allowed Robbie’s oxygen level to quickly return to normal and yielded an advantageous long-term outcome. 

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.

by George Bernard Shaw 

Robbie and his family are an inspirational example of making the best of life’s circumstances, no matter how impossible to overcome they may seem. Robbie is a shining star and truly loved by his Orange Grove family.

Posted by | Topic: In The News