Year End Reports – Flourishing in 2021: Flourish of Cullman expands staff, services

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Flourish looks forward to its upcoming 2022 fundraiser at Terri Pines Country Club. (Graphic courtesy of Flourish of Cullman)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Flourish of Cullman Inc. is a nonprofit that empowers people with disabilities to live, work, play and enjoy life with as much independence as possible. The program offers life and career coaching, job placement assistance, structured play and social activities for its clients. Director Melissa Dew reported that 2021 was a busy year for her organization and people.

“So many things have happened in 2021,” said Dew. “2021 is Flourish’s fifth year since the organization was founded. This year we have had 36 referrals. We are participating in a new pilot program with the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. The pilot program was developed to assist individuals on the waiting list for the 310 Scope Medicaid Waiver. We are one of the six organizations throughout Alabama to participate.

“We provide transition classes to the schools in Cullman City, Cullman County and surrounding counties. The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation funds these classes. Each class focuses on skills needed to become employed after high school. Individuals participating in these classes must have an IEP or 504 plan to be eligible.

She discussed a new addition to the program, saying, “Flourish recently started a cooking class that meets one night a week for eight weeks, beginning with fundamental tasks like food safety, how to use a microwave, and how to prepare different meals for their family. We partnered with Childhaven to use one of their empty homes to help the classes be home-based. There were five participants in the last class. Flourish will begin another cooking class in March. Follow our Facebook page and stay tuned for those details.”

Flourish’s social group was restricted by COVID, but has been able to resume, following CDC guidelines, with a new Social Coordinator, Jessica Fox, a graduate of the Wallace State Occupational Therapy Assistant program. Revamped men’s and women’s groups have also become active again.

Flourish sponsors a volunteer program in which clients go out to work at various places around the county, to gain work skills and improve their employability. The program also suffered under COVID but is back up and running in 2021. The program is led by Volunteer Coordinator Karli Lee, a Wallace State Occupational Therapy Assistant program graduate. 

Dew said, “We are currently volunteering two days a week, one day at Hope Horses and one day at The Foundry thrift store.”

Intake Coordinator Tia Sharp meets with each individual as they join Flourish’s programs. She is a graduate of the Wallace State Nursing Program. In all, Flourish now has six full-time staffers and one part-time, thanks to approval by the organization’s board in 2021. 

“This is a really big accomplishment for us,” said Dew.

Remembrance in action

Flourish started demolition for the “Robert Squires Independent Living Skills Apartment” where clients will learn how to live as independently as possible. The organization is seeking donations for supplies. 

Dew said, “We raised a total of $10,000 this year and need about $10,000 more to get it completed.  Robert, the namesake, was a wonderful man that passed away this year. Flourish wanted to do something special to honor him.”

Flourish also started the April Williams Scholarship Fund in 2021. 

Dew explained, “This fund was started in May of this year when my sister with differing abilities passed away. We wanted a way to keep her spirit of giving alive for years to come. The scholarship fund is used to assist individuals that may need items such as interview clothing or work clothes. My family will hold her annual birthday party on February 24 to build this account.”

Ready for now, planning for the future

Dew and her staff have worked to make sure Flourish has the resources it needs to continue its mission.

“We have enough money in our rainy-day fund for Flourish to operate for six months if something were to happen to our funding sources,” said Dew. “Flourish now has five different funding sources to help us grow and serve the individuals in the community. Flourish has partnered again with the Wallace State Community College OTA Program for their Virtual 5k Run. Proceeds will go to the OTA program, Flourish, and two other non-profits organizations in our area.”

Save the date!

Dew shared, “We have an event coming up, ‘Flourish the Night Together.’ The event will be 80’s theme. Guests are encouraged to dress up in their 80’s attire and come out and have fun raising money for Flourish of Cullman. The event will take place on February 5, 2022, at Terri Pines Country Club featuring a silent auction, games, and of course, food.”

For more information on Flourish or the upcoming fundraiser, contact the Flourish office at 256-735-4186.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com