A three-quarters of a million dollars garden about 15 years in the making is being constructed in the Clinton area at a site of service more than 100 years old.
The Whitten Regional Center broke ground on Thursday — the 103rd anniversary of its founding - for a Sensory Garden, a $730,000 investment of a fountain, wooden shade arbors, swing benches, outdoor musical instruments and other interactive features. Craig Byrd, Whitten’s administrator, welcomed officials, the public, center staff and, most importantly, the consumers to the campus’ pavilion for the exciting news.
“I don’t know if I’m going to lift a shovel, but I AM going to put it in the ground,” enthused Commission on Disabilities and Special Needs Chair Ed Miller. “We’re here to serve you. Our job is to help those who cannot help themselves. That’s what we will do at DDSN. Never forget that.”
A campus of 800 acres, Whitten Village was born on Sept. 14, 1920. Speakers had memories related to the Clinton-based campus that serves severely disabled individuals, including riding in Christmas Parades for Mayor Randy Randall and a Greenville band concert that drew 1,000 people for State Sen. Danny Verdin.
For others, the attachment is more personal. “We stay active. We stay busy because this is our children’s home, and we want it to be a place they enjoy and the community can enjoy with them. So this park is the icing on the cake and we are thrilled to have it,” said Linda Lee, immediate past president of the Whitten Center Parents Club, whose daughter has been a Whitten consumer for 38 years.
Randy Davis, former administrator, hatched the idea of the interactive garden 15 years ago, but he deferred credit to “the work of many of the staff, parents, and some consumers - some residents who live here. It is wonderful to see this final phase taking shape and how this will enhance the individuals who live here. It’s very exciting.”
State Rep. Doug Gilliam said the garden will be a benefit for the Clinton community “which is growing,” and serves as an example of how the campus and the city “fit together like a hand in glove.”
“The joint bond review committee smiled favorably on the work of DDSN. The state engineer was involved,” Sen. Verdin said. “A lot of people came together, and that it the circle of communion.”
“The people here are hard working and they do their best to keep their residents happy and healthy,” DDSN Interim Director Constance Holloway said. “Our regional center consumers, and the thousands of others we serve, deserve a world of acceptance and inclusion. The garden symbolizes one of those goal, and I can’t wait to see the good it does for the people here and the people in Clinton.” Projections are for the garden to be completed in February, 2024.
“I hope it will be a place I can come and sit sometimes,” Mayor Randall said, “and I know it will be a good thing.”