Christian Appalachian Project to close three programs in Kentucky

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 7, 2012 

About four times a year, Brandon Hopkins of Corbin spends a week at a residential respite facility in Rockcastle County.

The Rainbow Respite program gives Hopkins, 32, who has autism, a chance to socialize through activities such as swimming, going to the movies or attending a Lexington Legends baseball game, said his mother, Sandra Hopkins. It gives Hopkins' parents a much-needed break.

But Rainbow Respite, which has operated for about 24 years, is one of three programs that the Christian Appalachian Project plans to close by Aug. 31 as part of a strategic planning initiative, president and chief executive Guy Adams said.

The decision to close Rainbow Respite will create a hardship for the Hopkins family, Sandra Hopkins said.

"The social interaction was good for him," she said of Brandon. "He looked forward to it. When he would come home, he would say, 'When am I going to Rainbow again?'"

In addition to the eight-bed respite facility, the project plans to close a 12-bed residential drug recovery program for women in Mount Vernon in Rockcastle County called Healing Rain, and a Martin County child and family development center, one of three run by the project.

In all, 332 people received direct services at the three facilities last year, Adams said. The Christian Appalachian Project provided direct services to 8,782 people in all of its programs.

Each site is being closed for different reasons, but finances are playing a partial role, Adams said. The Christian Appalachian Project is a non-profit Christian organization based in Johnson County that serves people in need in Appalachia in Kentucky and 14 other states.

The project has a $27 million annual operating budget, of which $23 million is typically gift income from donors.

"We are about $1 million behind" on fund-raising revenue for the fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31, Adams said.

The number of the residential respite program's clients had been declining, Adams said. It will be replaced with an in-home day program in which workers go into homes of people with disabilities and provide respite for families, he said.

Adams said his organization is closing the drug-recovery center because it duplicates services provided by other organizations in the area. And he said that not as many impoverished families were using the Martin County center as were using the other child and family development centers in McCreary County and Rockcastle County.

"We weren't serving a high enough percentage of the most needy families," he said.

Nineteen of Christian Appalachian Project's 180 employees will be affected by the closings, Adams said. Twelve employees have taken advantage of a voluntary severance program. Employees affected by the closings will be considered for those vacant positions and six new positions created as part of the new plan, he said.

Adams said the project runs more than 20 programs, and he did not anticipate any other cuts.

"We are hoping this is it," he said.

In deciding to close the three programs, the organization, now in its 48th year, is returning to its basic mission of providing food, shelter and clothing to people in need in Appalachia, Adams said.

Adams said some people caring for the disabled would be "hurt" by the closing of the respite home.

"Out of the tens of thousands of folks we help each year, you have to make the best decisions for the greater good, and sometimes that means that you can't help everyone you would like," Adams said.

Sandra Hopkins said she fears there won't be many affordable options without the residential respite program, which served 178 people in the region last year. She said the home respite program might be a good thing, but her son "doesn't like change."

"Having to start something new is always a big process for him," she said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409.Twitter: @vhspears.

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