Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Empower Me Center to go before planners

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Leaders and supporters of Wilson County's special needs community plan to pack Lebanon City Hall next week in support of a proposed facility that would nearly quadruple the capacity of the special needs organization, Empower Me Day Camp.

According to EMDC Executive Director Michelle Hill, the Lebanon Planning Commission will hear the site plan of the Empower Me Center, which is proposed to be constructed on 16 acres between Saddlebrook Senior Apartments and University Medical Center.

The plan will include a 37,000-square-foot indoor recreational facility, outdoor recreation facilities and play areas, a Miracle Field and cottages where special needs adults who require minimal care can live when their parents are no longer able to provide their care.

"We have had plans to expand at the Wilson County Fairgrounds since 2008," Hill said. Empower Me has operated at the fairgrounds since 1999.

"But since we couldn't provide the housing aspect to young adults, being that it was public land, we began looking for other properties."

Hill said leaders are negotiating with the property owners, as well as looking for community members who would be interested in helping them with the project.

"People are coming out of the woodwork to support it," Hill said. "We have 75-80 people who have agreed to help support us. But we are still looking for people to volunteer, serve as committee members or donate to help make this happen."

Hill mentioned a special thanks to Mike Wrye with Lose & Associates Landscape Architects, Engineering and Planning as he helped Empower Me with the planning of the Empower Me Center.

Last year, the organization had to turn away more than 150 families who wanted to be a part of the six-week summer camp. The event runs for three weeks in June and three weeks in July, and other events are planned throughout the year. However with the construction of this facility, Hill hopes to dramatically increase the number of events available in addition to the summer camp.

The group plans to work quickly, hoping to get part of the process underway as soon as it is approved, she added.

In 2016, Empower Me will not be able to meet at the fairgrounds during June and July because of the National Jr. High Rodeo Association's Finals scheduled during that time.

Empower Me Day Camp offers recreational opportunities for children ages 5 to 21 who have physical, mental or developmental disabilities.

While it will likely be built in stages, Hill believes the proposed center could provide happiness to more than 100 when it's complete.

"We have been very successful in our 17-year history," she added. "But sadly, we have not been able to keep up with demand. We have a lot of work to do, but we are so blessed to have so many wonderful people in the community helping in whatever way they can to make this a reality for us.

"I think we can do it."

For more information about how to help, contact Empower Me Day Camp at (615) 453-0005 or visit empowermecenter.com.

Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.

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#community, Empower Me Day Camp, fairgrounds, healthcare, James E. Ward Ag Center, Lebanon, Lebanon Planning Commission, planning
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