The handicapped adults in Siler City have benefited from the devotion and personal sacrifices of Lois Garner. The mother of a developmentally disabled young man, she saw the need for a local recreation group like one she had seen in a neighboring county. Garner created a weekly dance program for developmentally disabled young adults in 1990 that has now grown to include nursing home residents and group home residents. They meet weekly for social time and recreation that is not available to them in any other way.
To start the program, Garner raffled off a quilt her family had made to buy a stereo, found a place to meet and contacted parents of young disabled adults. The group has since relocated to a larger space in the cafeteria of a closed school. The organization continues because of Garner’s volunteer efforts, parents and concerned citizens. Garner has, on several occasions, used her own money and solicited donations from churches and a few businesses to fund this weekly, year-round program.
Garner is aware that her son and others with similar developmental delays enjoyed music and liked to dance. She brought her own music and now the participants are allowed to bring their favorite music as well. These adults have disabilities such as autism, Down’s syndrome and mild dementia. Yet, everyone looks forward each week to the chance to socialize and dance to a rhythm of their own without worrying about their physical or mental limitations.
In addition to organizing the weekly dances, Garner works two jobs, one as a full-time furniture plant operator and one as a part-time waitress at a local restaurant. Every Tuesday night she makes time to set up and provide a social opportunity for 75 disabled adults out of her desire to bring joy to their lives. During the holiday seasons, she arranges full meals at the dances and has volunteer groups provide these meals. This past Christmas, 150 disabled adults attended and received small gifts.