Tribune-Courier News Reporter
From the humble beginnings of a one-room space in the Benton Church of Christ, the Marshall County Eceptional Center has grown into its current 17,000-foot facility. The MCEC has had tremendous growth since its inception in 1963 and in October it will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Executive director Diana Wall, who is leading preparations for the celebration, is asking the community to help with a special project that will be featured during the celebration.
Wall said she wants to create a memories wall featuring the center’s growth throughout the years as well as the individuals who have used the services. There will be a free spaghetti dinner and skits performed by the exceptional individuals at the center during the event.
The mission of the center is to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with opportunities to lead full and meaningful lives through training, support and loving concern.
Wall said the services the staff of the center provide are vital for its individuals and help them feel like they can become part of the community.
“We help them get to a point that they can go out into the community and work,” she said. “We have five or six that are out in the community now and one works out at the plants in Calvert City. Working helps them feel like part of the community – like everyone else.”
The center’s staff hold classes and one-on-one training throughout the week.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and Wall said it’s during that time that individuals can focus on their own goals and objectives.
She said – as an example of one-on-one training – if an individual is interested in banking then a staff member would set up a program for him or her to help achieve the goal.
She said they would teach currency counting skills and other key elements and would eventually help the individual set up his or her banking account with his or her own money.
The center has 32 individuals using its services now, but Walls said that since the center’s inception in 1963 there have been hundreds of individuals to use the center.
“I feel that we’re important to help people with their daily life needs and dreams and challenges,” she said. “Giving them a feeling of self worth and dignity and letting our community know we’re important, our people with disabilities are important. It’s kind of like a family here. Everyone respects and cares for one another and if someone is sick everyone wants to know why and where they are. In my opinion we have the best facility in western Kentucky.”
The Marshall County Association for Exceptional Children and Adults, Inc., – renamed the MCEC in 1992 – opened its doors in 1963 in one room of the Benton Church of Christ for 12 children, but now is housed in a 17,000-square-foot facility located at 198 Old Symsonia Road in Benton, Ky. During the first year there was only one instructor for the children, but now the center has a staff of 15.
It relies on state and federal dollars for a portion of its funding, but the majority Walls said comes from donations from the community.
She said there were several churches, businesses and civic organizations throughout the region, as well as the United Fund Drive of Calvert City, that give monthly donations.
She said the funds at the state and federal level are supplementary and without the community’s support the center wouldn’t be able to offer nearly as many services.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” she said. “We’ll find a way to help whoever comes.”