Writer: Aisling Healy
To provide, support, and educate is something that Henderson Haven strives for. Since 2003, Henderson Haven has been a nonprofit that focuses on helping anyone with developmental disabilities, and educating them on how to handle real world situations. Henderson Haven believes in choice for everyone, no matter your disability.
Henderson Haven is open weekly during the day and for afterschool programs. They accept ages six and up, and plan on opening a preschool in the near future. They are a place for children or adults with disabilities to come, whether it’s autism, mental retardation, down syndrome or whatever it may be, to further their learning to another level. Some may attend school during the day, then come to Henderson Haven afterwards, or stay the whole day. “We don’t babysit”, says Lee Henderson, the President/ CEO of Henderson Haven. Lee explains how they will get straight to work with the individuals once they walk through the door, it isn’t just a place for them to come hangout.
They teach life skills, and social skills, along with educating the individuals with math or reading skills, and even helping those who bring in their own school homework. They teach such skills with realistic situations. Sherri Henderson, wife of Lee Henderson and co-founder of Henderson Haven spoke about how they will teach math skills by educating them how to budget your money, and how bills will be paid with the amount of income one makes.
Henderson Haven has created a transition room, where the individuals can put their skills that they’ve learned to the test. It’s similar to a mock apartment. The room consists of a bed, where they can learn to make a bed, along with a washer and dryer, where they can learn to sort laundry as well as clean it, and a full kitchen, as well as a shower and bathroom area. They have been taught how to cook or wash dishes, and Lee explained how just recently they went around the building taking down other’s orders on what they would like on their hamburgers, and making them. They are also taught hygiene and how to wash themselves properly.
Lee and Sherri Henderson’s main focus is to be able to show others that just because someone has a developmental disability, they are still capable of becoming whoever they would like to become by choice. That it isn’t impossible and that they are still able to move out of their parent’s house and live independently with these extra set of skills. Many schools or parents will assume that being put in a classroom with a group of “normal” children, their child will get bullied or won’t be able to participate, but the Henderson’s disagree. “No matter what, anybody gets bullied in high school, it’s just a part of life”, says Lee. “Parents try to shelter their children but you can’t put them in a bubble to protect the bad things from happening, when they could be missing out on the good things”.
Lee explained how Sherri will call it, “food, flowers, and fifth”, which explains what kind of jobs many people with disabilities will go into, such as; working in a fast food restaurant, landscaping or a janitorial position, when they have so much more potential then assumed. They just have to be given the right attention, and support.
Henderson Haven does hire professionals that work in the field, but they are also interested in those who have more passion, rather than experience. They have many volunteers that come to help out, who will end up furthering their education in the field and some eventually get hired. Henderson Haven has worked with Clay County Schools on a few internships as well.
Henderson Haven likes to provide respite to the parents or families of such individuals. They will work onsite with individuals and they also provide in-home support for those that will need around the clock care, or just needing help with everyday tasks here and there. They aren’t only helping the individuals, but their parents or families as well with how to deal or cope, and prepare them for what is to come. One Saturday a month, they have “Mom’s day off” where the center is open on a Saturday for the individuals to come and give their family a day to get some grocery shopping done or be relieved for some time.
Henderson Haven has a summer camp called, “Camp Promise”. Even though Henderson Haven likes to focus on learning and education, they do like to promote fun as well, and that’s what the camp is all about. They try to bring in new experiences that most individuals may never be able to experience. They have different themes each week, and last year it consisted of animal week, Dr. Seuss Week, and Wacky Water Week, where water slides, making green eggs and ham, as well as a hot air balloon were involved.
Overall, Henderson Haven is providing a safe place for individuals to come and expand their education on how to become independent, and Lee and Sherri Henderson want to continue to express how important it is to give these individuals choices so that they can become the best they can be, and show their true potential.