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Pouches' Community Corner

RAAI and PouchesPouches planting flowers with some of the adults at RAAIShare a bit about Rappahannock Adult Activities.
Rappahannock Adult Activities, Inc. (RAAI) is a community-based developmental day program for adults with an intellectual disability. RAAI promotes dignity, independence, individualization, inclusion, and productivity of people with intellectual disability here in their own community.

RAAI was formed as a private, non-profit in 1976 by the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB) and a group of concerned citizens. We originally operated out of the old Little Falls School Building on Kings Highway.

Why was Rappahannock Adult Activities created?
There was a recognized need to provide local services to adults with an intellectual disability. More families were choosing community-based services over state institutions. RAAI provided a safe place with a structured day to support these individuals and their families.

How large is the organization?
Rappahannock Adult Activities has grown substantially since 1976. We serve more than 170 individuals at seven (7) sites located in the City of Fredericksburg and the Counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, and Stafford. We employ nearly 80 staff members.

Why is awareness important?
In Virginia, individuals with an intellectual disability are guaranteed an education through age 22. Once they graduate from high school, there are no guarantees. Without RAAI services, many of these individuals would be isolated, their families would not be able to work due to care responsibilities, and our community would not benefit from inclusion. The Medicaid Intellectual Disability Waiver pays for day support services provided by RAAI along with other community-based services. In our community, there are more than 350 individuals waiting for this funding source. The alternative to community-based programs is to reside in an institution that is several hours away. Virginia has made the decision to begin closing state training centers for those with an intellectual disability. The result is more individuals being successfully supported right here, in their community, near their family and friends.

Why a plant sale and Mayfest?
RAAI received a donation of a greenhouse from the Mary Ball Woman's Club in 1980 and we started with poinsettias. It helped build our horticulture therapy program. Participants work in our greenhouses throughout the year. Tending to the plants is more than a job for these individuals. There is a great sense of satisfaction in watching a seed grow into a beautiful plant. There is a correlation to the lives of many individuals served by RAAI as they grow and bloom into active and engaging community members.

The spring plant sale will feature more than 100 different types of plants – vegetables, herbs, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and planters. In the fall, we now sell mums and pansies. Of course, poinsettia orders start coming in before Thanksgiving.

This is our 29th Mayfest celebration. It's an opportunity to celebrate these individuals and their families; to help them feel community support. Always held on the first day in May at our 750 Kings Highway location, it's a family fun event in support of these individuals with an intellectual disability. There will be plant sales, food, games, raffles, silent auction, live entertainment, moon bounce, and so much more.

What has been the response of the community?
We used to start the spring plant sale two weeks prior to Mayfest and we would be nearly sold out by the date of the event. We now start one week prior to Mayfest (April 25th this year) and continue for one week after Mayfest as long as supplies last.

RAAI appreciates numerous partnerships with local churches that provide us space during the day for activities and cooking classes. There are so many restaurants and stores that are welcoming. RAAI participants love to explore and be active in the community. We are regulars at the YMCA as well as recycling at Rappahannock United Way and the University of Mary Washington. RAAI participants can often be found at the local parks and Dixon Pool. Our physical sites are bases for individuals to start and end their day; the individuals spend most of their time out in the community being active.

Tell us how volunteers can get involved.
We have a wonderful group of volunteers from the Master Gardeners who work with participants in the greenhouses and help with the plant sales. We also welcome therapy dogs and those who would like to lead RAAI participants in activities like art and music.

How can local businesses get involved today?
We are always looking for business partners in the community. We can always use extra help around our three plant sales (spring, fall, and poinsettia) and Mayfest.

Where do you see RAAI in the next 5 years? 10 years?
RAAI will continue providing quality, person-centered supports. We will continue serving those with the most profound and severe needs. We will also continue to adapt to meet the changing needs of the individuals served – those with Autism and those aging.

Historical Notes:
1975: ARC and Stafford County Public Schools develop a cooperative plan for three-days-per-week program at Brooks Park Activity Center.

1976: Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB) forms a non-profit corporation for an expanded program, Rappahannock Adult Activities, Inc., which operates out of the old Little Falls School Building at 750 Kings Highway in Stafford County.

1977: Stafford County Public Schools rents the old "Little Falls School" to RAAI.

1980: Mary Ball Women's Club donates greenhouse and RAAI has its first crop of poinsettias the following year.

1983: Ron Branscome becomes Executive Director of RACSB.

1984: Jim Gillespie becomes RACSBs Director of Community Support Services.

1986: Begin use of greenhouses at National Park Service site at Chatham. RAAI Board of Directors develops a yearly plant sales fundraiser to provide a gathering in our community to increase awareness of individuals with intellectual disability.

1989: RAAI experiences the first wave of special education graduates (in 1973, a federal law known as the "Right to Education Law" guaranteed the right of education to all, regardless of the severity of their disability). When Stafford County donated the land to RAAI that year, plans for a new building were underway, making it possible to serve individuals with more severe disabilities.

1991 – 1994: Develop offsite location programs throughout the Planning District.

1996: Celebrate 20th anniversary! After six years of planning and construction, RAAI opens its new site, the Harper A. Gordon Building, dedicated in honor of Ethel Wright, a committed volunteer. The building provides the environment to serve individuals with significant physical disabilities and behavioral challenges while meeting the growing demand for services.

1998: RACSB negotiates a lease for a licensed offsite location, known as "Twin Lakes," located within the City of Fredericksburg.

2000: RAAI opens a state of the art 1,440 square foot "Discovery Center." This, along with a 660 square foot production house and 1,500 square foot lath house, allows for a year-round horticulture therapy program.

2005: RACSB completes the Marie O. Kunlo Building on St. Anthony's Road in King George County and the Charles A. Cooper Building on Hope Road in Stafford County. Both facilities are licensed RAAI offsite locations and provide county residents easier access to services.

2007: RACSB completes the Patricia K. Spaulding Building on Rogers Clark Boulevard in Caroline County. The site includes a licensed site for RAAI and a greenhouse.

2008: The largest influx of Medicaid Waivers in Virginia history provided 42 individuals in Planning District 16 with funding to choose their own services.

2009: RACSB joined a national grant program on Becoming a Person-Centered Organization, transforming our services and supports.

2010: RAAI provides services to more than 150 individuals with an intellectual disability.

2011: Construction to expand RAAI's day support services in Spotsylvania County is nearing completion at the Edith O. Fleming Building on Brock Road.

RAAI celebrates its 35th year of service and the 25th anniversary of Mayfest!

2014: RAAI opens off site location at Christ Church in Spotsylvania County. RAAI expands services to serve individuals returning to the community from Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg, VA. These individuals reside in new Intermediate Care Facilities constructed by RACSB.

Looking ahead: RAAI remains dedicated to meeting the needs of individuals with an intellectual disability and their families. Our continued growth and success would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteer Board Members, partner agencies, and community supporters. Thank you!

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