By Karen J. Rohr
Glenn and Kay Rogers are the parents of 30-year-old Adam Rogers, born with Down syndrome. Adam cannot be left alone in the home, so either Glenn or Kay must be with him at all times.
When it came time for Glenn to have surgery, and then later, Kay, each spent time in the hospital alone because there was no one to care for Adam.
"We have no family in Rockdale County. If there was an emergency, who do you go to?" said Kay.
Now the Rogerses and countless other families who care for mentally challenged individuals do have some place to turn. Rockdale Cares, a non-profit dedicated to providing services for the mentally challenged, recently constructed Haven House Respite Home for special needs children and adults on land donated by Smyrna Presbyterian Church. Haven House is located at 621 Agape Circle in the Light House Village on Sigman Road in Conyers.
Rogers, who works as a liaison to families with special needs children for the Rockdale County school system, said respite care is the No. 1 service her families need. In respite care, families may drop off their children at a facility for a short amount of time, a weekend for example, allowing the families a break from the often exhausting duties of caring for a special needs child.
"A weekend away. It's hard to imagine what that would do for a family, especially a single parent," said Rogers.
Haven House Respite Home, due to open in August, is the only one of its kind in the east metro Atlanta area. The next closest respite center is north of Atlanta and 45 minutes away on a day with no traffic, said Rogers.
Although the respite care center is constructed, there is now a need for funds to help families pay for their stay at the facility. Some families receive government aid, but the majority don't, said Rogers. Most, especially families with children under age 18, are on a waiting list for funds.
In light of that need, this year's Rockdale Cares fundraiser is dedicated to raising money earmarked for a fund to pay for respite care for families who can't afford it. Rockdale Cares will hold a Tuscan Summer Carnival fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Club 908 in Olde Town Conyers.
For a $35 ticket, patrons will be able to enjoy a pasta dinner buffet, dessert bar, live music and a live, silent auction. Commercial Street will be blocked off for the event. Typically, Rockdale Cares has the event at its main building, Our Place, on Davis Drive, but Barbara Kilpatrick, executive director of Rockdale Cares, said the organization decided to try something new.
"We're stepping outside the box this year. For one thing, we wanted to help with the revitalization of Olde Town. We also hope to draw a different crowd," said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick said that she hopes the fundraiser generates between $15,000 and $20,000. She said it took Rockdale Cares several years to raise the $300,000 necessary to build the respite facility with churches, private individuals, companies and services clubs donating money, materials and time.
"We've just been so blessed all the way around with this project," said Kilpatrick. "There's such a tremendous outpouring."
The Haven House has five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, as well as a kitchen, laundry room and great room. Four mentally challenged persons may stay at the facility at one time, with the fifth room reserved for use by foster children under the care of the department of family and children services.
Kilpatrick said that not only does the respite center give time off for the families, it also provides an opportunity for mentally challenged persons to be more independent. Residents will be allowed to help make plans for their time there and a van will be available for transportation.
"They, too, like a break from their families and to be with their peers every once in a while. They love it," said Kilpatrick who added that it was her "dream" to establish the facility.
Robin Lamondo, who with her husband Charles is parent to 28-year-old Aundrea Lamondo, a mentally challenged person, said that in her research she's found that families who have respite care are more apt to keep their children living at home with them as opposed to sending them to a group home.
The respite care setting also helps acclimate a mentally challenged person to a group overnight setting, which they may have to enter full time once their parents can no longer care for them, said Lamondo.
"Everyone that has been involved with Light House Village and this respite house may not know how many families will benefit from this. From the bottom of our hearts, Charles and I are grateful to everyone who has been involved with donating their time, finances and resources," said Lamondo.
"It's been a long time coming and it's been something that we've recognized our county has needed for a long time."
For more information about the fundraiser or to purchase tickets, call Rockdale Cares at 770-922-7272. The deadline to order tickets is Aug. 2. To learn more about Rockdale Cares, visit www.rockdalecares.org.
Contact Karen Rohr at firstname.lastname@example.org
SideBar: If you go
What: Tuscan Summer Carnival to benefit Rockdale Cares
When: Saturday, Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Club 908, 908 Commercial Street in Olde Town Conyers
Cost: Tickets are $35 and must be purchased by Aug. 2. Call 770-922-7272.