hroughout our history, the Ben Hill Mental Retardation Services Center
operating now as The Jessamine Place continued its evolution.
Beginning in 1972, as
The Ben Hill Foundation for Special Children our
program, with the best of intentions and full support of the professional
community, isolated, congregated and segregated its consumers
(labeled “retardates” at the time) in a broken down building in a broken
P. O. Box 436  •  402 South Main Street  •  Fitzgerald, GA  31750
Telephone (229) 426-5205  •  Fax  (229) 426-5208
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down neighborhood … an approach occurring simultaneously across
Georgia in hopes of creating better alternatives to the standard
institutional warehousing. We've come a long way since 1972. In 1997,
we completed our drive to become one of the few non-facility based
programs in Georgia, or for that matter in the country, providing services
in valued settings and taking advantage of opportunities within our
community. The driving force behind Ben Hill County’s progress
continues to be a vigorous commitment to normalization values. This
focus stresses integration of consumers into age appropriate activities
and routines in environments common citizens characterized as typical. Out of this commitment flows not
only progress in the form of consumer growth and independence but also a community that is beginning
to appreciate diversity and consequently open its doors to other “strangers” previously misunderstood
and cast out. The opportunity for people with mental retardation to lead us into this new world has a
historical precedent in Ben Hill County. As the first place in the country where Northerners and
Southerners lived together peacefully after the civil war our city, Fitzgerald, was founded on the principle of
‘unity in the midst of diversity and differences’. We understand at a very fundamental level the concept of
welcoming strangers into our midst and the consequent opportunities to overcome ill-conceived notions
and patterns of behavior. For 34 years our staff has been blessed with this gift of learning from the people
we seek to serve. The presentations that follow represent how seriously we take the obligations we've
incurred for this gift as well as appreciate the continued opportunity to serve. In the end, it is our hope,
indeed out prayer, that the community we love will appreciate a lesson we are privileged to relearn each
and every day: the people we serve are not the problem, they may, in fact, be the solution.
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Last Updated 03/05/2008
Serving People
Since 1895
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