Pleasant Acre among agencies that may feel pinch

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; As the economy and business climate change, so, too, do many donations to nonprofits, including local United Way campaigns.

With the closing of industries and the laying off of hundreds of workers in the last few years, United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou has been tightening its belt.

Already, the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society has braced for a 50-percent cut in its funds from United Way. That group and other nonprofits hope they can find ways

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to inspire extra help.

Pleasant Acre Day School has served mentally disabled individuals in the community for more than 45 years.

The day school, located off Liberty Road,

was created to provide a sheltered environment for its students and to enrich their lives.

&uot;If it were not for the school, the community would not have another source to provide life skills, life enrichment, and peer interaction. We provide them with particular life skills, such as speaking and writing, to function at home,&uot; said Mary Ann Eidt, one of two teachers who has taught at the school since 1963.

She and teacher Judy Grimsley have a combined total of 78 years of teaching experience at the shelter.

Students report every day at 8:30 a.m. and are dismissed at 2 p.m.

Each morning the students perform the daily program routine, with the first hour usually being free time.

Afterwards, students discuss daily news, life skills or events occurring within the community. During lunch, students set the table to help them to learn proper dining habits, Eidt said.

&uot;It all depends on what the day presents,&uot; Eidt said. &uot;We just want to give them an opportunity to fulfill their potential.&uot;

Like most school, Pleasant Acre has extracurricular activities for its students. Every week the students go bowling, and once a month the students are taken to dinner at a local restaurant.

Annually, Eidt and Grimsley take the students to Biloxi to participate in a statewide art fair for the handicapped, which allows the students to explore all facets of the arts.

&uot;The students have an opportunity to go swimming on the beach, picnicking, and eating out in restaurants,&uot; Eidt said.

&uot;It also gives the families a chance to have a small vacation while they are gone,&uot; she said.

On occasion, there are expanded field trips.

In the past, Eidt said, the school has traveled to Disney World, the zoo and the Grand Ole Opry.

The school also serves as a home away from home to 12 local students ranging from the age of 26 to age 68.

&uot;Some of the students have grown up in our system. We have some students that have been here since they were 5 years old, so it’s just like their home,&uot; Eidt said.

&uot;Because some of the students are more capable of taking care of personal needs than others, they help each other interact with each other. We function just like a family,&uot; she said.

With 40 years of teaching and interacting with the students, Eidt said that the school has become a part of her.

&uot; I have been here so long with them … you just don’t leave family,&uot; said Eidt.

As a nonprofit organization, the school receives no government funding. Much of the funding comes through United Way and the local community.

United Way has supported the school for 40-plus years, said Eidt. As the main source of individual support, &uot; it is the largest piece of our pie.&uot;

&uot;We not only get monetary support, but physical support as well,&uot; she said. &uot;We have been in this same building for 45 years, and it is maintained though the funding and volunteerism of the community.

&uot;We have a very small budget. Without the United Way and the help of the community, there is no way we would stay open.&uot;

For further support, the school has fund raisers. With the help of the Elks Club, the school recycles cans. Students throughout the year recycle Mardi Gras beads for resale, host a bake sale and operate the Some-n-Special shop where citizens donate items to be marketed.

Though it is not a mandatory fee, the school has a tuition charge of $7.50. &uot;No one is forced to pay if they can’t afford it. The parents already have a lifelong responsibility, so we don’t want to give them a financial burden,&uot; said Eidt. &uot;They do a lot of help with the fund raising.&uot;