Giving a home and support to developmentally disabled men, Hickory Log Vocational School has seen its fair share of financial challenges throughout the recession, but further obstacles have now arisen at the hands of criminals.
Earlier this month, someone broke into a barn on the organization's property stealing a John Deere lawn tractor and a weed trimmer. The barn door was secured with a pad lock, which had been torn from its post. In addition to the lost tools, Director Greg Flowers has taken bids for securing the aging equipment shed, both amounting to more than the organization can currently bear.
"We don't have funds to straight out purchase one," Flowers said. "We rely a lot on donations from United Way and when the economy is bad, the United Way doesn't get as many donations therefore we don't get as many donations. It really is the worst time for something like this to happen."
For Hickory Log's residents, the loss means more than unkempt grass. The lawn mower and grounds upkeep, is, in part, the responsibility of residents willing and able to work.
"It's an extremely important tool that we use in our training here. It's vital to the program," Flowers said. "We have some of our residents learn to cut grass and this is a way that they can learn safety skills and responsibility. ... They thrive on responsibility."
Through this and other chores, along with jobs at The Good Shepherd Foundation, Hickory Log residents learn valuable skills and life lessons. Many residents take great pride in their work, including the resident who takes it upon himself to do much of the mowing. It was he who found that the lawn mower was missing as they returned from dinner.
"One of the residents found it when they returned, the door was open and the mower was gone," Flowers said. "My question is, what next? What will they come for next time?"
This is the first incidence of theft from the premises Flowers is aware of since he joined Hickory Log in 1997. He sees the act as a result of desperation due to hard times but has the strongest reaction thinking that the culprit might be someone they know. The break-in occurred while the entire home was gone on a regular dinner outing, a detail not everyone would be aware of.
"That's the part that makes me nauseous," Flowers said. "We're just trying to give them a place to grow -- emotionally, mentally and spiritually."
For more information on the program or how to help, call 770-382-6655. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 300, White, GA 30184.