At 13, I cashed my first paycheck. I still keep it in a scrapbook at my house with other special mementos.
After finishing the chores on my family’s farm, my parents let me travel down our country road to a neighbor’s dairy farm. I helped clean the barns and feed the cows. My reward for my efforts was a dollar an hour.
That $10 check, and the hard work that earned it, has always been a great source of pride for me.
The Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge makes that experience possible for intellectually and physically disabled adults and children in 16 counties, principally Anderson, Knox, Morgan, Roane, Campbell, Scott, Monroe, and Loudon.
In addition to providing physically and intellectually disabled people with a sense of purpose and pride, EVC is one of the best values for Tennesseans. The institution provides employment options to individuals who would, otherwise, find it difficult to support themselves through work.
Although the state pays a portion of the center’s expenses, another source of funding comes from the earnings of the working adults who have benefited from EVC’s services. Tennessee also receives a return investment through the sales taxes that the center’s patrons pay. The Emory Valley Center helps create contributing Tennesseans, who derive the same sense of self-worth from their work that the able-bodied members of our community sometimes take for granted.
In September, I was proud to join the staff of EVC, Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, Congressman Chuck Fleischman, and Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally in celebration. The Appalachian Regional Commission awarded EVC with a much-deserved grant. These funds will jump-start construction on a new facility that will replace EVC’s half-a-century-old center for educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs for 140 disabled adults and 400 children.
The state is not alone in funding a new EVC facility. Additional private donations have totaled more than $200,000.
According to Dr. Gene Caldwell, co-chair of the Capital Campaign, through public and private funding, EVC has raised two-thirds of the money needed to build. The focus now is on raising the last of the funds needed for funding construction and essential educational and training equipment.
With a new home, EVC can contribute to the economy of the region to an even greater extent than the old facility has previously permitted.
Last session, our legislature heard many proposals to fund public programs. Few of these proposals served as worthy a mission as the Emory Valley Center. I know that EVC serves a vital purpose, and I am committed to helping EVC through my service to the Tennessee House of Representatives.
I challenge the members of our community to learn more about the center, to tell your friends, family and colleagues about its mission, take a tour, and, if you are able, to financially contribute to the Emory Valley Center’s Capital Campaign. Anyone wishing to donate to the EVC Capital Campaign may do so by mailing a contribution to P.O. Box 5328, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, or by logging on to www.emoryvalleycenter.com.
For additional questions or to arrange a tour, please contact Robin Biloski at (865) 201-5361. All funds will go directly to the new replacement building and to the programs that help all East Tennesseans move upward.
John Ragan is an Oak Ridge Republican who represents the 33rd District in Anderson County in the Tennessee House of Representatives.