From the Archives

Here is another piece of news from Hi-Hope's fascinating archives. Nearly 45 years ago the Gwinnett Chapter of the Women of Georgia Power Company were the first outside group to hold a meeting at the old Country Store. Just last month the Citizens of Georgia Power visited for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project. It's absolutely awesome to think we have had a relationship of service with Georgia Power this many years. If you want to explore our pictures or scrap books, let us know and we can set up a time for you to delve into our rich history. Just contact Nick at nreynolds@hihopecenter.org to get access.

The following piece appeared on Wednesday, February 14, 1973 in the "Social News" section of The Winder News:

Georgia Power Women Meet In Lawrenceville

The Gwinnett Chapter of the Women of Georgia Power Company met February 12 in Lawrenceville at the Hi-Hope Country Story. Mike McFarland, an instructor at Hi-Hope, told the women about the Store. It was opened to give an outlet for handmade items from the training center and to give work experience to some of the students. Hand-dipped candles, [miniature] people, stuffed animals, as well as, floral arrangements were displayed. The Power women were the first group to hold a meeting at the Country Store. Plans for the April Banquet, club scrapbook, and the spring convention were discussed during the business session. Those from Winder attending were Mrs. Sue Deal, Mrs. Eloise McEver, and Mrs. Yvonne Jet.

Holiday Recap

As many of you know, the holidays are a big deal at Hi-Hope. The individuals, staff and volunteers bring the season to life with holiday-themed activities, crafts, music, decorations and the much anticipated Holiday Party. This year was no exception as Hi-Hope transformed into a holiday wonderland overnight on November 29th. The Wonderful Westbrooks (a volunteer family that comes to us by way of Perimeter Church) visited Hi-Hope after hours and decorated the entirety of the original building (the Lifelong Learning Center was decorated by Hi-Hope staff and included an enormous tree to fill the new space). In a matter of hours they plastered the building with holiday cheer, including not one, but SEVEN trees. 

The following weeks were filled with holiday activities, from a group home decorating contest to gingerbread house making. Molnlycke Health Care hosted their annual Christmas cookie and card party and we even adapted the weekly Bingo game to focus on the holidays. Even our improv comedy class got in the spirit with some holiday-themed skits. This all culminated in the annual Holiday Party on December 21st.

The morning kicked off with a caroling/sing-along session led by members of the Rivord family. Grace Rivord was the third place finisher in Gwinnett's Got Talent 2017 and she was joined by her musically inclined younger brother and mother for this activity that got many of our folks singing holiday classics. Pat Satterfield used visual aids to assist with singing and comprehension. As the singing was winding down, groups started to filter through the cafeteria to have a fantastic lunch, graciously provided by our friends at Longhorn Steakhouse (the Mall of Georgia location). After lunch, folks visited Santa Claus for a photo op and to receive their gift of a cozy polar fleece blanket. Hi-Hope's Santa is special for two reasons: 1) he is the tallest Santa in the state of Georgia and 2) he is the brother of one of Hi-Hope's individuals - Howard. The day wound down with some holiday themed crafts and music. All-in-all, everyone had a blast and went into the break filled with the holiday spirit and an abundance of cheer!

"I Love to Laugh"

Some of you will remember the popular Disney film Mary Poppins. Released in 1964, the film starred the musically gifted Julie Andrews as the titular character. Perhaps one of the most memorable songs from the movie is "I Love to Laugh." This song is sung during a scene in which "Uncle Albert," "Bert" and the "Banks children" uncontrollably levitate towards the ceiling as a result of infectious laughter. The premise of the scene can be scene as a metaphor for the way laughter can "lighten" a mood and lift up one's spirit. Mary Poppins aside, many of us can relate to the wonderful, uplifting effect laughter has on us. And so it was with much joy and appreciation that Hi-Hope welcomed a guest comedian to our main campus this month; the incomparably funny Casey Whitaker.

Casey is the daughter of Hi-Hope Board of Directors Treasurer Yvonne Whitaker. She is a "seasoned stand-up, sketch comedy and improv performer based in Los Angeles." She trained and toured with Chicago's famed Second City improv comedy enterprise. She also wrote and directed a full length play as part of the Artist in Residency Series at Saint Mary's College. She just completed a stand up tour in Europe and spent 4 months at sea performing comedy on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Breakaway. She is also a freelance comedy writer for the card game Utter Nonsense. As luck would have it, Casey is spending the month of December in Atlanta between things and reached out to Hi-Hope to volunteer. Working with Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds, they came up with a plan that involved four improv comedy classes and two performances with the individuals we support at Hi-Hope. The entire project was a HUGE hit.

Casey is open, welcoming, flexible and fearless making her the perfect volunteer. She immediately took lead on the project and guided groups ranging between 8 and 15 people through some truly hilarious improv comedy exercises. Our individuals were given the choice of being involved or not, but many opted in and we even had a few folks randomly join once they saw how much fun everyone was having. Not only did our individuals enjoy many a good, healthy laugh, but improv also helps build confidence and self esteem. Indeed, some individuals that normally shy away from the spotlight really shined during her sessions. 

Casey's classes culminated in two separate performances. The performances were held in in the new Lifelong Learning Center in front of individuals, staff and visitors. The participants were brilliant and really had the audience going. These shows also brought out the best in our folks. For example, Natalie and Donna's silliness got them laughing so hard that it spread to the audience. Marty's impersonations of John Wayne and Jackie Gleason fit in perfectly and added color and hilarity to the troupe's antics. Howard's love of festive moments had him dancing across the "stage." Shane's deadpan delivery of funny comments was perfect.

All in all, this "experiment" with improv comedy was a huge success and just goes to show that the individuals we support at Hi-Hope are capable of so much. Their performances raised all our spirits and had our hearts and minds drifting towards the ceiling - just like Uncle Albert - as our worries melted away. The performers gave us the gift of laughter and we all "love to laugh." Finally, a huge THANK YOU goes out to Casey Whitaker for bringing the gifts of silliness and laughter to Hi-Hope this month.

Our Dear Friend Betty

Betty is a total standout at Hi-Hope. She is kind and warm and welcoming. Here is a bit about Betty so we all get to know her a little better.

Betty was born and raised in New Delhi and is a quick conversationalist when it comes to the delights on Indian desserts, especially gulab jamun. Ever the intrepid traveler, Betty's dream is to one day visit France to learn about the people and the local culture.

Betty is a big fan of the science fiction and action genre when it comes to film. She likes X-Files and has spent quite a bit of time chatting with Volunteer Coordinator Nick about their favorite episodes. She also likes the shows Supernatural and Flash. Her favorite movie is Back to the Future, which we think makes Betty AMAZING! Speaking of the arts, if you want to boogie down with Betty, your best bet is to crank up the pop music, especially Backstreet Boys.

Her favorite holiday is the Fourth of July because she loves the flags and fireworks. Thankfully, Hi-Hope has a great relationship with the LongHorn Steakhouse near the Mall of Georgia who helps us put on a fantastic 4th party. 

Speaking of Hi-Hope, Betty really enjoys the parties we throw, especially the annual Christmas party and individual birthday parties. She also likes shopping, but doesn't think that's anything special. "Everybody does shopping," she says. She is particularly fond of our DSP Kalandra. She reflects, "she is a good teacher and nice. She teaches me money skills and I am learning a lot."

When asked why she likes Hi-Hope, Betty said, "when I first started I met people like Ms. Linda, Janis, Kim, all the different staff and I just knew I would like it." We sure are glad she did because Hi-Hope simply wouldn't be the same without our Betty.

A "Greater" Way to Spend the Day

Greater Atlanta Christian School (GACS) holds an annual service day and for several years Hi-Hope has been one of the partner organizations for the 7th grade program. While these students traditionally visit Hi-Hope to put on an activity, for the last two years we have flipped the proverbial script and taken a small group to visit the school. See, last year we were brainstorming an activity and it dawned on us that we still had the films we screened at the Sprout Film Festival. Furthermore, several of our individuals were unable to attend the festival because it was on a weekend. We started thinking about a space big enough to show the films at Hi-Hope, but were struggling because of the renovation. Our contact at GACS, Lori, came up with the solution: "Why don't you bring your group over here? We have a ton of space to set up a small movie day." And so we did.

Our film rights allow us to do small screenings so for the last two years we have set up a mini film festival that lets some of our folks see the movies while paired up with a 7th grade student. It is also a great educational opportunity for the students who get to see the films and talk about them with people that make up the intellectual and developmental disability community. These dialogues do a lot to dispel stereotypes and break down barriers.

The students, teachers and parent volunteers who help with the event do it up big-time. They literally rolled out a red carpet and set up a rope line so that when our folks enter the event, there is a crowd on both sides cheering for them and taking pictures (pretending to be paparazzi). Each individual is paired with a student that gets to be their host for the day. This year we started by watching roughly half our films in their fine arts center. Afterward, we did some arts & crafts and then took a short stroll across campus to the dinning room for lunch where everyone ate together. The day ended with a group photo shoot outside.

Everyone said they had a great time and it was pretty obvious that our folks made some fast friends over the course of the morning. One GACS staff member remarked that her son had participated last year and her 6th grade daughter was already asking if she could do it when she's in 7th grade. We look forward to keeping this tradition alive as a great activity that gives our folks a chance to be ambassadors of our work out in the community.