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History of the Chip Hale Center

History of HCARC and Helping Hands

By: Mrs. Alice Summers Hale

In 1961, Mr. And Mrs. Winfield B. “Hap” Hale called a meeting of parents of retarded children at the Citizen’s Union Bank Building. The meeting was publicized in the Rogersville Review and on WRGS. Seventeen parents attended, most of them unknown to each other. It was decided to form an association for the benefit of retarded children, for whom there were no facilities for training or education in Hawkins County. Shortly thereafter, the American Legion Auxiliary offered to be of help, and soon a day care center opened in the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church. The center was open one day a week and the children were brought to the center and cared for by volunteers from the Rogersville Presbyterian Church, the First Baptist Church, the Christian Church, and the Methodist Church. Most of the children were crib-cases, and besides providing respite for their mothers, the Center was true learning experience for the volunteers. Within a few months, a local chapter of the National Association for Retarded Children in Tennessee was organized. One of the first presidents was Mrs. Joe Tom (Faye) Smith. The mother of two sons born with PKU (a protein imbalance), Mrs. Smith went on to become the President of the Tennessee Association for Retarded Children.

In that capacity, she addressed the Tennessee Legislature, and this state was on of the first to make mandatory the PKU testing for newborns. The Hawkins County Memorial Hospital was the first hospital in the state to do the mandatory testing. A class for retarded children was organized and taught by Mrs. Ella Jo Bradley in a room in the new Hospital. A class for retarded adults was soon begun in the First United Methodist Church. In the late 1960’s the local association (HCARC) led the way to immunize every Hawkins County school child against the expected Rubella (German Measles) epidemic. Appealing to the public for donations to procure the vaccine, in three weeks time, the program was oversubscribed by some five thousand dollars ($5000.00) In cooperation with the County School System, and the Health Department, every child in the county was immunized. In 1972, the Association was deeded to Alice K. Sturm property on McKinney Avenue. Many public meetings were held before the local Planning Commission between the two opposing factions. The issue was brought to a head when an injunction was fixed against HCARC and its newly formed subsidiary organization “Helping Hands,” by the residents of McKinney Avenue. The issue was reconciled when the State of Tennessee offered to build a new facility on Hasson Street, with local HCARC furnishing 25% of the construction cost. The Sturm House was sold, and the building on Hasson Street was erected on property leased from Hawkins County Board of Education.

The Center opened in 1975 with community support and many physical and financial gifts to make it a respected and needed part of the community. The new sheltered workshop on Highway 11-W was erected in 1988. This a very brief sketch of the history of the Organization for Retarded Citizens (as it is now termed) in Rogersville and Hawkins County. Through the years the leadership has been widespread, and so outstanding that it would be impossible to pay tribute to all the people who have contributed so much. In, 1961, “the time had come” for this movement, and the years have proven that all the early efforts and heartaches were necessary and the dream has been fulfilled.


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