Our Place art and music teacher Vicki Fair helps Lindsay Garner with her self-portrait painting, while Matasha McCrary works on her piece of art. Both works will be auctioned off at the annual Rockdale Cares fund-raiser on Aug. 11.
Each morning, Marilyn King gets her 30-year-old son Kareem Harper ready for the day. She helps him get dressed, brushes his teeth and combs his hair. She feeds him breakfast and takes him to an adult day program, Our Place at Rockdale Cares.
Though Kareem, who is developmentally disabled, functions in part at the level of a young child, he also expresses interest in dating and get married.
"It's a lifelong battle. It never ends. Just when you think you've accomplished all you need to and are ready to sit back and relax it presents itself with other issues, whether it's health, or social interactions, or every day community living," said his mother, a Rockdale resident.
"It's very difficult drawing the line trying to make him do the thing he's supposed to do and protecting him at the same time."
Once a month, King takes her son to the Haven House, a nonprofit respite center in Rockdale County for developmentally disabled children and adults, where he stays the weekend.
"My primary reason is it provides a safe place for him to go while I get a much-needed break," said King, who is a single mother. "It also provides activities and community interaction and the development of better social skills."
This year, proceeds from the annual Rockdale Cares fund raiser will benefit Haven House. A non-profit providing assistance to the developmentally disabled, Rockdale Cares operates the Haven House, as well as Our Place -- an adult day program -- and two group homes for the developmentally disabled.
The Rockdale Cares Hawaiian Luau 32nd Annual Fundraiser takes place on Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Our Place, 875 Davis Drive, and is open to the public. The event features a catered meal, live and silent auctions, a disc jockey, dancing, and live entertainment from an Elvis impersonator.
Tickets are $35 and can be obtained by calling Rockdale Cares Executive Director Barbara Kilpatrick at 770-922-7272.
Kilpatrick said Haven House, which consists of five bedrooms and bathrooms where clients may stay for the day, the weekend or a week, fills a tremendous need in the community.
During fiscal year 2010-11, Haven House, which opened in 2008, served 356 families. The facility gives Rockdale residents priority, but has provided care for clients from Newton, DeKalb, Henry, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton, Douglas and Cobb counties. Families pay for use of the facility on a sliding scale.
"There's nothing like this in metro Atlanta," said Kilpatrick.
Haven House is open continuously during the summer months when school is not in session, and on weekends when school is in session. It is also open during school holidays, such as Christmas break.
Haven House is full every weekend and has a waiting list, said Kilpatrick.
"We can't even say in words how great it is that we can go right next door and get help in our own county because help is what it is," said King, Kareem's mother.
Haven House operates on a $220,000 budget, with $50,000 contributed from the state and the remainder coming from private donations and fundraisers. Kilpatrick said last year's Rockdale Cares fundraiser netted $38,000.
Additional money for Haven House would allow them to provide more respite care, said Kilpatrick.
"Our goal is to be open 24-7," she said.
Rockdale resident Dr. Andy Smith said he and his wife drop off their autistic son, Andrew Smith, who is non-verbal and has a tendency to get restless and wander, at Haven House each Sunday morning, so they can attend church.
Andrew Smith, 22, recently graduated from Salem High School, and his parents are in the process of trying to complete the steps necessary to get him into Our Place. Mr. Smith said in the future he and his wife would most likely use Haven House for overnight stays.
"Rockdale Cares is something that I think is extremely important to our community," he said.