Texas Council of Community Centers has been working for many years to make the month of September a special one for the clients of the community center. For the last 23 years, Texoma Community Center has held a Destination Dignity celebration for its clients.
The Destination Dignity celebration will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21. There will be free hot dogs and hamburgers available for individuals in Early Childhood Intervention and children and adults with behavioral and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“When I first started here 26 years ago, one of our goals at community centers around Texas was to make Destination Dignity a month-long event,” TCC public information officer Paula Cawthon said. “We wanted to make it a joint effort across the state. We wanted to do something collectively.”
The first year of Destination Dignity, Cawthon said, she put on a contest. The theme was, “I Have a Dream.”
“It was 1995,” she said. “Our clients did poems, paintings and other works. We gave away cash prizes for the first, second and third place. We made pictures of the teams and they were printed in the Denison Herald in a really beautiful two-page spread. It was really a work of art. I still have it in my office.”
The themed contest continued for about four more years, Cawthon said. Now, Destination Dignity is a celebration held annually at the Sherman Municipal building.
“Area businesses pay for the party,” Cawthon said. “We have good area support. An area business supplies and cooks the food that we serve. Their management team also serves the food at the celebration.”
The Willie Kick-It Band will be providing the music for the dance.
We have about 30 volunteers that come out and help as well,” Cawthon said. “They just love connecting to the people.”
Destination Dignity, Cawthon said, is meant to not just educate the public about individuals with unique abilities and help people gain independence and dignity for the individuals served by reducing the stigma associated with unique abilities, it is to acquaint the public with the services available through local community centers.
“We get so caught up in our world, that sometimes we forget about other people,” Cawthon said. “It is important to bring awareness for others. This gives people a chance to notice this segment of society.”
About 300 to 325 people attend this event annually.
“When I was young, people with developmental disabilities were kept at home,” Cawthon said. “When I use volunteers, it helps introduce them to people who are not like them. We want to educate people early. There are people in this world that are not like you. They are valuable. They need acceptance. This is also a good opportunity for adults.”
TCC clients are not the only ones that get to have a lot of fun at this event, Cawthon said. This event is for anyone with mental illness.
“Reservations are required because we need to make sure that there is enough food,” she said.