May 5, 2017

The Forrester-Davis Development Center: Fostering Independence and Happiness

When you peruse the website for The Forrester-Davis Development Center, you’ll read about how they help all people regardless of differences and abilities. You’ll read about their programs that enable children and adults to learn, build skill sets and reach their greatest potential. You’ll read about their mission “to provide educational/rehabilitative services that enable developmentally disabled children and adults to pursue independence and a better quality of life.”

And while all of those aspects, details, and philosophies are incredibly inspiring and worthy, something else will strike you as you look through the website photos.

It is, in a word, happiness.

As I read about their programs and perused their website, I was struck by the happiness that shone from the faces in their photos. Forrester-Davis Development Center is without a doubt a place of learning, hope, but above all, great happiness is at the center of their mission. Those smiling faces, from children to adults, brought to mind the Helen Keller quote, “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

The Forrester-Davis Development Center was first founded in 1971, under the name Johnson County Child Development, as an organization helping special needs children. Throughout the following years, it stayed true to its original mission of helping the disabled meet their utmost potential. Today it is a center not only committed to serving children with special needs, but adults as well.

During the 1980s public schools became responsible for more special needs education, and so the center took that opportunity to expanded their focus to pre-school children with development delays. As time passed the center began serving both preschoolers with development delays, as well as traditional preschool age children. They provide evaluation, individualized program planning, instruction, access to appropriate therapies, and a full-time nurse. Programs are also available for infants and toddlers, from 6 weeks to 3 years.

In addition to serving the children in their community, Forrester-Davis also has a thriving adult program. They provide services for adults with developmental disabilities which are tailored to each individual’s needs. They help each adult gain life skills, and in some instances, have assisted in individuals gaining the skills and independence needed to live in their own homes. Adults in this program learn a myriad of skills and talents, including cooking, exercising, sewing, job skills, budgeting strategies, behavioral skills, and even being part of the Singing Falcon’s Choir.

Joy Wilson has been the Director of the Forrester-Davis Developmental Center for over 24 years. Her commitment and passion for the programs and community are evident.

“When I started working here 24 years ago, we had 11 children and 11 adults. We currently have 91 children and 63 adults. We have 77 staff members, full and part time. We have 12 bus routes through Johnson and Logan counties. 47 out of 63 adults work in MAC Industries and receive a paycheck. Some work in the Falcon’s Nest Restaurant, learning to cook and take orders.”

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MAC Industries, or Making Abilities Count, is a vocational training center for the adults attending the Forrester-Davis Development Center. MAC provides job training for a variety of positions such as assembly line work, screen printing, embroidery, laundry services, janitorial and restaurant skills. Through this program adults are able to secure jobs and are paid wages.

In addition to all of these great programs, a nearby nursing home facility was recently donated to Forrester-Davis. According to Joy, it’s been a game changer in how they are able to run their adult programs.

“We’ve remodeled and we’ve been there a year and a half. It’s been such a blessing, and there’s room to grow. We do art, music and cooking classes. We have drama classes, a book club and a library. All of this is made possible through community donations, they really embrace us and what we do.”

But perhaps above all the fantastic programs and opportunities that Forrester-Davis provides, Joy’s motivation speaks to a higher calling in the program’s mission.

“I believe everyone we serve in these programs is pure-hearted. And I believe blessed are the pure of heart. The whole community has embraced Forrester-Davis. They support us through the restaurant, contracts and referrals. I believe it’s God’s will that we protect and serve the people in these programs. Sometimes I come home from work and realize I gained more from them than they gained from me.”

The happiness and higher calling found in the Forrester-Davis Development Center are tremendously inspiring. And just as Helen Keller mentioned years before, happiness through skills and independence is at the forefront of their mission, not only for the children and adults the center serves, but also for the community lucky enough to serve them.

For more information about the Forrester-Davis Development Center’s programs, the Falcon’s Nest Restaurant, and MAC Industries, you can visit their website at http://www.forresterdavis.com/index.html or contact them directly at (479) 754-6210.

All photos used with permission of Forester-Davis Development Center.

Liz Harrell

Arkansas Women Bloggers member Elizabeth Harrell is a native Arkansan, author, and freelance writer. Her book, My (not so) Storybook Life, was published in 2011. Her blog projects have been featured in At Home Arkansas, Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and Better Homes and Gardens. Visit her at https://elizabeth-harrell.com .