Lisa Bennett taught special education in Forsyth County schools for 20 years, and spent an additional 14 years as an administrator for the system’s special education program. Special people teach special education, and Bennett is definitely one of those people because to her, she said, the time spent in her career “didn’t feel like work.”
While she retired from the school system last year, Bennett will be able to continue her passion of assisting individuals with special needs thanks to a partnership that was recently agreed to between the City of Cumming and Creative Enterprises, a day program for special needs adults.
The mission of Creative Enterprises is to assist individuals with disabilities and others with barriers to employment in maximizing their potential. Creative Enterprises focuses on “participants’ needs, safety, and growth toward their hopes and dreams.”
The Cumming City Council, during their December 2015 meeting, unanimously approved a proposal presented by Bennett which will allow her, in partnership with Creative Enterprises, to use the city’s old recreation building on Pilgrim Mill Road as a place where special needs adults can come to learn new skills, be with friends, and work during the day.
Bennett said this facility is needed in Cumming and Forsyth County since there is no program currently that provides services to special needs adults after they leave school.
Special needs adults are allowed to remain in public schools until the age of 22, but only two percent who leave at that age can work. So the vast majority of them have no place to go after age 22. In many cases, their parents have to quit work to take care of them.
Many counties in Georgia provide day programs for special needs adults after the age of 22. But currently Forsyth County is not one of them.
Bennett’s proposal includes partnering with Creative Enterprises as a satellite location of its Lawrenceville office to bring the non-profit’s expertise and experience to Cumming and Forsyth County.
“I think it’s important to partner with an organization with experience in this service, and Creative Enterprises has that experience,” she said. “This is something families in our city and county have needed for a long time.”
Creative Enterprises will pay for operations of the building, including insurance and repairs, as well as all costs associated with running the program, so there would be no cost to the city or county.
“This could be a blessing for the students and their families,” Bennett said. “It’s a win-win for both.”
A recent survivor of lymphoma and two bone marrow transplants, Bennett thanked the City Council after their unanimous vote, adding, “I feel I am still here for this. I’m here for others.”
While no specific timeline has yet been adopted for the program, Bennett and Creative Enterprises will likely move into the old building, which currently houses the City of Cumming Recreation Department offices and classroom space, after a new, 27,000-square-foot building is opened across the street at City Park.
The new City Park building is currently under construction and anticipated to be complete sometime in early 2016. The new facility will house all of the Recreation Department’s offices and will provide several new classroom and meeting spaces.