KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Austin Baggett working at Food City, but he loves sports even more. He’s good at bowling, soccer, baseball, and the one he enjoys the most, basketball, but whether he’s on or off the court, Austin knows life is about taking shots, and at the Emory Valley Center (EVC), they are able to provide him with options that will help him succeed.
“Emory Valley Center is a private nonprofit that was established in 1955 to provide support and services to children, adults, and families in 16 counties in East Tennessee,” Jennifer Enderson, the president of Emory Valley Center said. “We may start working with somebody who’s a child and support them through the end of life and everything in between.”
The nonprofit is like a teammate to Austin— there when he needs the support, and cheering him on when he’s got it all under control. The center gives the tools needed for individuals to live an independent life, and they do so through the help of technology.
“We actually see people flourish when given the opportunity to be independent,” the community innovation director at EVC, Miranda Kelley said. “People with intellectual disabilities are just like you and I and have dreams and goals, and when they have the devices put into play, they are given the opportunity to live the life that they choose,” Kelley said.
Like playing any sport, practice makes perfect. Austin has been able to do more on his own with the help of his devices, such as the Ring doorbell or the Echo, which allows him to set reminders for daily tasks or even help create a grocery list.
“We knew Austin was capable because he’s super independent and he’s actually progressed quickly,” Kelley said. “He started out with just an hour, just so that he could get comfortable staying home alone, and now he’s up to four (hours), and we’re looking to possibly move up to eight hours.”
This is what the Emory Valley Center wants to be able to give all of the people they support and help even more through new programs, like one that’s kickstarting called Medicaid Alternative Pathways to independence or MAPs.
“It’s a three-year program and it’s for that transition age that’s three years before high school and three years after graduating,” Kelley said. “I think it’ll fill that gap of services that are missing for people that are waiting for long-term care services,” she said. “It’s also outcome-based, so people will get to choose what they want to work on and live the life that they chose.”
Allowing opportunity is the key at Emory Valley Center, and it’s bound to help people like Austin win at life.
“I appreciate where I’m at now,” Austin said. “It’s helped me out more than where I was before, and I’m really happy about it,” he said.
The Emory Valley Center works to continue to serve the community, and they are holding their Compassion Fundraiser on Thursday, April 27, where all proceeds will support the new MAPs program. Tickets are available to purchase for the event, or anyone unable to attend can donate on their website.