Special Plans for Special People

Words By Cheryl Pangborn

Every once in a while, a writer is given the opportunity to tell a story that is intensely personal to them. I have a 25-year-old son with autism, and therefore am thrilled about Diversability! A new non-profit organization in Richmond Hill, Diversability offers opportunities for adults with disabilities. To offer some context, a student with a disability ages out of traditional school at the age of twenty two. This leaves families completely on their own, trying to navigate the next phase of life for their child. It’s frightening and unfortunately, there are few adult resources in Bryan County.

Kim Brewer, Heather Matthews, and Traci Cole are educators who are determined to use Diversability to solve this problem. Their mission is to provide vocational, educational, and leisure opportunities locally for specially-abled adults. These ladies are committed to finding ways to overcome barriers and help every individual find a place in society. The trio founded Richmond Hill Educational Coaching which offers comprehensive services to all students and now, they plan to branch out with Diversability.

Heather and Kim, formerly educators in a special ed program, were involved in helping students prepare for post-secondary life, thus having a front seat witnessing the challenges these young people and their families faced finding appropriate opportunities once they aged out of school. With that in mind, they set out to help meet the needs of these individuals and their families. Their master plan is to acquire a full-time facility in Bryan County. “We don’t want to exclude those with challenging behaviors or medical conditions. We want to create an environment where our younger participants can hang out together, and the older ones can have their own group as well,” says Heather. “Ultimately, we’d like to set up instruction time so families can figure out how to navigate the system. We’d love to have a parent support group eventually as well.”

Traci, who is a certified behavior analyst, and also the mother of a 19-year-old with autism, explains their vision to have an on sight “all-inclusive warehouse” workspace at the center. She explains, “We’re modeling the space similarly to NineLine in Savannah with a retail space in the front and an opportunity for our participants to work in the back.”

Diversability’s first big event in The Hill is a dance and social called “Winter Wonderland” for students and adults age 14 and over with special needs. The free event will be held at New Beginnings Community Church on December 1, 2023, and will include dancing, music, food, prizes and more. Traci is very excited about this inaugural event saying, “We don’t want any family to feel hesitant about attending. There is no dress code! We will have a “cooldown room” for those who need a quiet area to hang out. We really just want everyone to be comfortable and have a great time.” They are accepting donations for the event and are asking that those interested register in advance.

“We really want Diversability to become intertwined in the education community here in Richmond Hill… Connections with the school system will help adults transition more smoothly into regular life and give families peace of mind before experiencing this monumental change,” says Traci. “If we can work with families to educate them on their opportunities and connect them with the right resources, it won’t be as challenging or scary for them to lose the school resources.”

I am personally excited to see what is to come from this amazing team of women and the impact it will have on the special needs community here in The Hill. If you would like to donate to the Winter Wonderland please contact diversability.rh@gmail.com or 912-572-3314.

Winter Wonderland Dance and Social
When: December 1, 2023 from 6:30-8:30 PM
Where: New Beginnings Community Church