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Brandi’s Hope providing personalized care

PUZZLE PIECES: A man puts together a puzzle before lunchtime at Brandi’s Hope Community Services. Photo by Dart Spiers

PUZZLE PIECES: A man puts together a puzzle before lunchtime at Brandi’s Hope Community Services.
Photo by Dart Spiers

Anyone who attended the Picayune Christmas parade may have noticed the “Sixth Street Christmas Characters” enjoying the occasion on their float. The passengers were the people of Brandi’s Hope Community Services, the subject of this week’s “Dart.”

Brandi’s Hope is a program for adults with developmental disabilities designed to assist them in having an independent and meaningful life.

“Of the 23 individuals we have here, 21 of them have jobs,” said Site Director Mary Ann Robinson, “What we want is for our individuals to be a part of the community.’

The Picayune location of Brandi’s Hope is one of seven in the state. Danny Cowart founded the program in 2010 and named it in honor of his daughter, Brandi, who died from a rare chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18 when she was 9 years old. Cowart saw a need for more personal care for those who suffer from intellectual or developmental disabilities. At Brandi’s Hope, employees put a strong focus on individual attention to provide the best quality of life possible.

Part of that attention is the Discovering Personal Genius program. Robinson said the staff will interview people closest to the individual in order to get the best idea of what they would most enjoy doing. Once the conversations have taken place and a general theme is determined, the participants of the program are assigned a job coach who will help them find employment. The job coaches remain on the job to provide whatever assistance might be necessary, but Robinson says her members don’t need any extra incentives to get to work.

“They all love their jobs,” said Robinson.

Brandi’s Hope teaches their clients budget management techniques and monitors their finances. They participate in planned shopping trips to buy cooking ingredients, and for those who can’t attend the day program, the center also provides a home and community service where staff members are sent to the homes to help them with various needs.

It’s not just work, though. There are a number of fun activities offered in the common area of the center. Brandi’s Hope also hosts a free crawfish boil to the community once every year. Clients also attend dance class once every two weeks, and the group is currently looking for a corporate sponsor to assist them in joining a local gym. They are hoping to take a trip to Disneyworld sometime in 2015.

Robinson said that in her more than 30 years of experience, she has heard her participants referred to as clients, but she and her staff do not see it that way.

“We just call them friends,” she said.