Excitement has been building for weeks among the residents of the Arkadelphia Human Development Center. They have been making plans to attend Winter Wonderland Prom 2018, which will take place from 6-9 p.m. Saturday in the center’s multipurpose building.
Cathy Jones, administrative assistant for volunteer services, said this is the first time a prom has been given at the center for adults with intellectual disabilities. Clients from Rainbow of Challenges Inc. and Group Living Inc., both local organizations that offer services to adults with developmental disabilities, have also been invited.
Jones said the idea for the program came from one of the center’s residents, Hannah White, who presented the idea at a resident council meeting.
“I was present at the resident council meeting when Hannah asked if we could have a prom,” Jones said. “Hannah said she had ‘always wanted to go to a prom’ and ‘wanted it to be beautiful.’
“My part in all this was seizing the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of our residents,” Jones said. “This is an AHDC and community effort, and I am merely the one who is pulling it all together. I think I’m the luckiest one of all because I am witnessing the joy this event is bringing into the lives of our residents.
“This is going to be a wonderful event,” Jones said. “The multipurpose building will be decorated as a winter wonderland. Most of our clients have never had the opportunity to attend a prom. This is like a second chance for them. It will be a dream come true.”
Jones said the formalwear — ball gowns for the women, tuxedos for the men — has been donated by staff and community members, as have shoes, accessories such as jewelry and tiaras, corsages and boutonnieres. Beauty-salon services for hair and nails have also been donated, as have photographs by professional photographers. Williams Funeral Home in Arkadelphia is providing limousine service to transport some of the clients to the prom.
“The donation response from the community has been overwhelming,” said John Jones, interim superintendent of Arkadelphia Human Development Center and assistant superintendent of the Conway Human Development Center. “After the idea of the prom came up, Cathy Jones quickly began tapping into the love and support our community provides and has orchestrated an event to a scale much larger than we could have anticipated. Our staff wanted to give our residents something they deserved. [Staff members] have been incredibly selfless with their time so they can escort our individuals, cook them special dinners and help with decorating the building.”
Jones said that among the major donors are Upscale Resale in Hot Springs Village and Second Chance Youth Ranch in Saline County.
“Vicki Parker and her morning wake-up crew with country radio station [KQUS-FM 97.5 FM in Hot Springs] are emceeing the event,” Jones said. “She will introduce each resident as they enter on the red carpet. She will also help us crown a king and queen.”
A steak dinner with baked potato, salad and dessert will be provided to the residents Saturday evening before they go to the prom.
“We have eight residential homes on campus,” Jones said. “Each home will provide its own dinner, … making it special for the residents. The goal is for all residents to have a good time. Parents or guardians are invited, too. They can escort their family member to the prom and be announced if they want to be.”
Carolyn Humphries, physical-report specialist at the center, said, “Parents are excited, too.”
Jones said members of the AHDC Volunteer Council frequently help with events at the center.
“The Elks of Arkansas and the Drifters Motorcycle Association often do our fundraisers and donate to us,” she said. “All have been invited. We may have folks in leather escorting our residents down the red carpet. … That would be great.
“This will be the feel-good event of the year,” Jones said. “This will be an answer to a lot of dreams.”
The Arkadelphia Human Development Center is a state-supported residential facility for adults with intellectual disabilities. It is operated under the auspices of the Department of Human Services and the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services, to include the DDS Board of Directors. The AHDC is on 333 acres and serves approximately 115 residents.
Jones said the center sponsors two fundraisers a year. The Walk a Mile in My Shoes walkathon raises money to fund Christmas gifts and other items. The Dee White Softball Invitational Tournament for girls ages 8 to 18 empowers women and honors Delores “Dee” Brumfield White, a retired educator from Henderson State University and a former baseball player with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was the subject of the 1992 movie A League of Their Own.
The Arkadelphia Human Development Center recently built a community garden on campus, through the help of a grant from AmeriCorps and in conjunction with DHS and partner groups, including Heifer International, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and its 4-H and Master Gardener programs. The fresh produce is used at the center for meals, and residents sell the surplus at their own vegetable stands and farmers markets and donate to food pantries.
The center offers vocational and job-placement services to its clients, including the Clark County Recycling Cooperative, which is housed on the AHDC campus. CCRC offers recycling services to small and medium-sized businesses in the area.
“We are all about enabling the people we serve to advance the quality and independence of their lives,” Jones said. “That is our stated mission.”
For more information on the Arkadelphia Human Development Center, call (870) 246-8011.