Celebrating its 50th year, Hickory Log Vocational School continues to help intellectually and developmentally disabled men reach their full potential. In addition to shelter, the personal care home provides numerous offerings, such as meals, vocational skills, job training and community outings.
“Hickory Log focuses on providing a family environment for all of our residents,” said Kevin Barnes, who became Hickory Log’s executive director in late 2019. “We strive for this facility to be their home, not just a place where they live. Along with financial, vocational and recreational training opportunities, we also focus on strong relationships.
“We emphasize mutual respect among all the residents and we model it within the staff. One of the qualities of Hickory Log that our residents’ families are most complimentary of is that their loved ones get to live a level of independence in a strong community of people.”
Eighteen men, ranging in age from 35 to 77, currently call Hickory Log home. Most of the individuals have lived at the personal care home for more than a decade, with one residing at the facility for 45 years. Some of the common diagnoses of Hickory Log’s residents include learning disabilities, epilepsy, autism and traumatic brain injuries, Barnes said.
To help bolster awareness and funds, the nonprofit will present the Hickory Log Jubilee Fundraiser. Kicking off Saturday, the online benefit will accept financial donations until Aug. 23.
“To honor our past, present and future, we have created a special opportunity for the community to invest in the men and the mission of Hickory Log,” said Emily Dowse with Hickory Log’s marketing and development department. “… For the past 50 years, our community has been behind Hickory Log every step of the way and we are eternally grateful.”
Through the Jubilee Fundraiser, Hickory Log is looking to generate $50,000, which equates to $1,000 for each year in existence. Along with supporting the organization, participants will have the opportunity to win giveaways each week.
“Our 50th anniversary Jubilee Fundraiser is designed for two goals,” Barnes said. “First, even though our volunteer list is strong, there are still folks who have never heard of Hickory Log. We want to publicize Hickory Log so everyone knows about the incredible work that is done on a daily basis.
“The second goal is to celebrate a successful 50 years of serving those in need by planning for another 50 years. We have an optimistic vision of future expansion to better serve the disabled population, and it is going to take our community’s support [for] our vision to become reality.”
Situated at 3680 Highway 411 in White, the nonprofit was established to meet the needs of Bartow residents who before had to relocate to out-of-county facilities.
“Hickory Log is a permanent residential facility for men with intellectual and developmental disabilities that began 50 years ago as a vocational school for boys with the same disabilities,” Barnes said. “Through the generosity and foresight of the county leadership, Hickory Log’s founders, Al and Sarah Munn, were able to establish their school in the house that resided on the land that the county designated to help those in need.
“This land, known as the pauper farm, was a safety net for folks experiencing financial hardships to ensure they always had hope for survival. They could move to the farm, work the land and have a roof over their head until they could get back on their feet. By 1970, the pauper farm concept had become outdated and Hickory Log Vocational School revitalized the land’s original purpose — helping those in need.”
Equipping their students with “essential life skills,” Barnes shared the Munns were successful in their efforts. However as years passed and special needs children were integrated into the public school systems, he said the need for organizations, like theirs, decreased — thus leading to Hickory Log’s transformation into a personal care home for men, 18 and older.
“Being a private nonprofit, our budget relies upon the generosity of others,” Barnes said. “Fortunately, our community has a habit of standing in the gap.
“We are grateful for everything our volunteers and donors have done over the years. Their benefit to our daily activities is immeasurable. The guys who call Hickory Log home know they are loved by their community due to all of the external support they receive.”
For more information about Hickory Log, call 770-382-6655 or visit its website, www.hickorylog.org, or Facebook page.