Kicking off the New Year with a cause that really pulls on the heart strings as we keep with the spirit of the original Patron Saint of Paris France, Genevieve. Each month we feature an individual or group of individuals that show their Devotion to Works of Charity in Paris through the sharing of their heart, giving of time, or through the donation of money. We recognize them as our Patron Saint of Paris…..Texas!
In our first article of 2017, we are featuring the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society (RRVDSS) as January’s selection. We went to get a tour at their 505 Lamar Ave location and to learn about all of their programs, services and of course their purpose that states “Our programs and services are aimed to enrich the lives of those we serve as well as their families, friends, and the community in which they live.”
The first year the RRVDSS started they met in the Calvary United Methodist Church. They then moved to a 1200 square foot building in Reno, TX where they did free 1-on-1 tutoring for 4 students. In November of 2012 they purchased the 7300 square foot building they are currently in on Lamar Avenue just a few blocks east of the square. Starting off 2017 they have 3 staff members providing free 1-on-1 tutoring for 12 students with an additional 11 students enrolled in their Johnny Stallings Recreation Program (JSRP).
What is the JSRP? Glad you asked. It is an after school enrichment program for students age 5 and up with disabilities and for their siblings, with or without disabilities. It is open Monday – Friday from 2:30 – 6 p.m. and runs on the same calendar days as PISD and NLISD, and they only close if both school districts are closed. The JRSP staff picks up students at North Lamar and PISD transports students by bus to the center. Unfortunately due to budgeting and staffing, currently there is a waiting list for the JSRP.
Part of the reason for the shortfalls is that the RRVDSS has a goal of providing free of cost tutoring to students. The other part is that normal after school or daycare programs can run on a typical 1:20 ratio for staff to students. JSRP runs on a 1:6 ratio normally, but with some requirements and potential scenarios there can be a 1:3 and at times a 1:1 ratio for staff to student. So imagine the potential for your child’s program to costs between 3 and 20 times more than it does right now. The JSRP currently has a tuition requirement, but this non-profit is setting a goal to do it at no cost to the parent or guardian. Hopefully with some generous donations and/or sponsors (hint, hint) and successful fundraising, they can help close the gap on what is needed for their funding & staffing.
To get down to who is leading this organization and whom we sat down with for this interview was Krissy Crites. Krissy was raised and graduated high school in Hugo, Oklahoma. She moved to Paris in 1999 with her husband and set off to Texas A&M Commerce where she graduated in 2004 with a 4.0 GPA and a Masters Degree in Special Education with a minor in Psychology. Her first job after college was teaching for a year at the Head Start program before moving on to 4 years with the Behavior Unit at PISD.
The Crites Family. Photo by Kodee Roraback.
In 2009 she took a job as a stay-at-home mom for a few years. In 2010 she joined the Board of Directors for the RRVDSS and was selected and subsequently hired as their Executive Director in 2012.
Photo of Krissy and Katelyn by Kodee Roraback.
She has been married to her husband Jimmy for 17 ½ years and they have three lovely children Katelyn (16), Wesley (13) and James (7). Krissy said the RRDVSS would not run as well as it does without the “Awesome Support” from the Board of Directors, from the volunteers, and from the REACH Center Staff. Those staff members are Paula Liles, the Education Director and Recreation Director, who has 30+ years teaching in Special Education, and Dakota Taylor who is the Recreation Staff member and who is currently attending college to become a Special Education teacher as well.
Krissy finished up by saying she was thankful that “Our supporter’s gifts of time, talent, and resources are changing the Paris community and making it a place where all people with disabilities have an opportunity to live up to their full potential.”
Two things you need to put on your calendar are: the annual “Snowflakes & Diamonds Gala” scheduled for next Saturday January 14, 2017 from 6 – 11 p.m. at the Love Civic Center which has entertainment by “Blackland“, dinner from Savory Sisters Catering, and lots of live and silent auction items. Tickets are available and some auction items can be seen and bid on online at https://www.bidcoz.com/rrvdss/sdgala.
The other calendar item is Buddy Baseball starting with registration in February and games starting in March. In 2006 the RRVDSS teamed up with the Breakfast Optimist Club of Paris to start the area’s first baseball league for youth with disabilities. Buddy Baseball is a sports program that provides opportunities for all children in Pre-Kindergarten through High School, with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Each athlete player is given a “buddy” to play with them. The buddies are there to assist the player, not play the game for them. It is played with the other divisions of Dixie Youth baseball at Woodall Field. To be a Buddy you need to be 12 years of age by March 24th and to go to the RRVDSS website to sign up to help out in the dugout or in the outfield.
It is easy to see why eParisExtra has selected the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society (RRVDSS) as this month’s Patron Saint of Paris. We encourage you to learn more about this wonderful non-profit by going to their Facebook and web pages, through attending one of their fundraisers, by volunteering in one of their programs such as Buddy Baseball, or by simply giving a donation. This really is a caring, much needed, and very special non-profit here in Paris.