Emory Valley serves around 1,200 clients in Anderson County. That includes children all the way through senior citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A number of the center’s clients spoke with Turner on Friday and described how they are improving their lives with the help of caseworkers at Emory Valley.
Philip B. has worked at Long John Silvers for eight years.
He loves to make hush puppies and does a little bit of everything. He’s been with his house parent Kathy Bunch for 23 years.
Adrian P. is also in a group home but is moving into a smaller house with a roommate.
“I work a lot,” he said.
He’s very proud of the money he makes but is even prouder to finally be moving out of the group home. It’s a goal he has had for years.
Charity T. works at Food City in Oak Ridge and has been there three years.
“I clean the deli,” she said. “I like to go swimming and see my boyfriend.”
Charity is in supportive living, according to her caseworker. Emory Valley is focused on getting people with disabilities out into the community.
That includes volunteering, employment and internships. They’ve hit some bumps in the road along the way as they implement new programs, but they keep plugging along.
“The speed bumps are OK,” said Turner. “The river doesn’t change the mountain by its power — it changes it by its consistency with the current. As long as you keep moving forward, change keeps happening.”
Turner said that working with the disabled is a way of life for him. His own daughter has cerebral palsy, is nonverbal and has had several strokes.
She is wheelchair bound.
“To see other communities invested in this kind of success means a lot,” he said, noting the presence and support of Lt. Gov. Rand McNally and State Rep. John Ragan. “Having people who are just as invested in the success of the individuals we support is how we will continue to change Tennessee and make it the greatest state in the country for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
He told the clients in the audience that what they want is no different than what anyone else wants for their lives.
“Don’t settle for what other people are telling you you can do,” he said. “Do what you know you can do. That’s what is important: believing in yourself.”