Pleasant Acre is life, work, school

Published 12:06 am Friday, December 5, 2008

This is the sixth in a series of stories highlighting charitable giving and the agencies in need in the Miss-Lou.

NATCHEZ — For 50 years, the four walls of Pleasant Acre Day School have been a refuge, a learning center and a home away from home for special needs adults.

Five days a week, mentally challenged adults attend the school, where they are taught life skills and engage in life enrichment activities.

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“They do daily chores such as housekeeping and learning skills that they can carry on at home so they can be a part of their families and part of the community,” Director Mary Ann Foggo-Eidt said.

“If they did not have Pleasant Acre to attend, they would basically have to stay at home.”

But through the school’s program, not only are its students learning practical life skills and lessons, but they get to have fun too.

Once a week the group of eight full-time students goes bowling. Every month they go to a local restaurants. And every year, they take a summer trip to the Mississippi Arts Fair for the Handicapped, where they perform.

“They’re a busy bunch of folks,” Foggo-Eidt said.

All of the different activities and learning that take place at Pleasant Acre roll into one general purpose.

“It’s to give them a life and let them have some kind of quality of life. They interact with each other and not just vegetate at home. They have a purpose,” she said.

“They deserve all the advantages those who are not mentally challenged receive.”

It’s not just the students who benefit, though.

Schools, civic groups and other community organizations routinely pitch in their time and volunteer with Pleasant Acre.

And through this, Foggo-Eidt said knowledge, acceptance and experience have been gained by the volunteers.

“I feel like the community, especially the young people, have broadened their knowledge,” she said. “I think it has helped everyone who has come in contact with them realize there is a lot that they can do. I think it has really been an educational thing for the community as a whole.”

As the organization moves toward its golden anniversary, Foggo-Eidt said she has seen the program grow.

In 1959, Pleasant Acre was established to house mentally handicapped children.

“At that time, some schools did not provide services for the trainable mentally handicapped,” Foggo-Eidt said. “That’s why this school was formed.

From that, it turned into a conduit for mentally handicapped adults.

The school system now allows mentally handicapped children to attend school until they are 21.

After that, when the child has grown into an adult, there’s nothing more for them.

Foggo-Eidt became the director in 1963 and started out with a group of young children.

“We have just seen this program develop,” she said. “(It’s) grown to where its adults come every day, and they have picked up skills they would not have acquired had they not had this outlet to explore their potential and grow.”

Foggo-Eidt said the program is key to the development of these adults.

“We’re the launching pad for them,” she said.

And without funding, the launching pad cannot exist.

She said Pleasant Acre relies solely on donations.

“In order for us to keep the doors open, we depend on the generosity and kindness of this community. We receive no state or federal funds,” she said.

Most of the budget is expended on utilities and general upkeep of the building. Pleasant Acre has a 15-passenger van for any excursions the group makes.

“The budget is very small. The budget is shoestring,”

Foggo-Eidt said.

The school also has two paid staff members.

“The community is always so generous at Christmas time. That generosity helps us through the hard times throughout the rest of the year,” she said.

Monetary donations can be sent to Pleasant Acre at P.O. Nox 1362, Natchez MS, 39121. Call Foggo-Eidt at 601-442-2264 or 601-442-1977.