SNAP Program reaches out to community for help

By Madeline Otten

In 2010, Lauren Fender Reed, a student at Longwood University at the time and now a special education teacher in Fluvanna County, came up with the idea of a program to help individuals with disabilities become more inclusive within Fluvanna County. 

When mother, Mona Holmes, attending Fender Reed’s meeting, she thought that this could be a helpful program for her son, Caleb. Around 2013, the program fell into the hands of Holmes and she was ready to take action.  

The newly named Special. Needs. Activity. Parties. (SNAP) has been in the works for ten years and has had as many as 43 participants and averages between 25-28 participants. However, there is still need of help from the community. “The big question for us is ‘what is here for our kids after school?’” said Holmes. Currently there is nothing else; no programs established in Fluvanna County to meet these needs. “My son is 20 years old and when these individuals get to that age, what are they going to do?”

With only Holmes and a couple others funding this program, they are in need of help from the community to provide more inclusive activities for this group of individuals. Holmes is very appreciative of the help they are currently getting, especially from volunteers from Fluvanna County High School and FUMA’s Interact Club, but she wants more.

In addition to support, Holmes not only wants there to be a supporting program for those students during and after school, but also wants to make sure she reaches all of them who are in need of services and interested in activities. “We want to find them, reach out to them, spread the word about our program, and improve it all at once,” said Holmes. With not a lot of activities in the area, the group took action and went in search of help. Holmes reached out to the school about a year ago and spoke with special services.

“The school has been great with access inside the school, such as distributing our flyers and helping spread the word about us,” said Holmes. “However, we both agreed that more needs to be done with this population and involving the community.”

Holmes has also reached out to Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation for some help. “We are grateful that Aaron Spitzer, director of Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation, has agreed to help us with our program(s),” said Holmes. “We are thrilled he is open to helping us and it will be a learning experience for all of us.” 

SNAP holds four events each year; one is an upcoming “Wonderland Dance Party” with celestial like decorations to be held on March 7 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Fork Union Community Center.

“This is a special needs student and family event with food, a DJ, dancing, a photo booth, and lots of fun,” said chair of Fluvanna Leadership Program Janice McCormick. “We encourage the entire family to join us for this event,” said Holmes. 

FLDP has been a huge help for Holmes and her program. FLDP’s mission is to inform and educate interested citizens about Fluvanna County and the issues and challenges it faces; to prepare citizen for involvement, and to encourage their participation in keeping Fluvanna desirable place to live, work, and enjoy life. The 17th graduating class will present its projects on March 19 and have graduation on March 23. 

Other events that SNAP hosts are a holiday event where the students can go shopping and wrap presents; a back to school event, and an end of the year carnival. This year’s carnival will be held on May 1. The students are picked up from school and transported, with signed waivers, to the Carysbrook gym that is filled with carnival games, a bounce house, and fun. 

By working alongside Spitzer, Holmes’ dream is to have a community center, similar to the Betty Queen Center in Louisa County, which would be inclusive for all people of all ages. Spitzer has a capital improvement plan in the works from 2011 and has a similar vision of a community center. 

Holmes understands and does not expect things to change overnight, but is in hopes that the community can come together and accept, respect, and hold more activities that this group of individuals will be able to participate in.

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