College helping adults with disabilities make a difference here at home

Adults walking around the front of a transit vehicle wearing cool weather clothing.
“Orange Grove Center’s Lead Direct Support Professional Blake Clark (helping people around the front of the shuttle bus) is one of several who assists these adults at the Georgia Northwestern Technical College location in Walker County, Georgia. This is a scene at the end of the day as Orange Grove Center clients climb on board a van that provides transportation to and from the new facility.”


(Walker County, Georgia) – More than two dozen adults in the Northwest Georgia town of Rock Spring, Georgia are getting the chance to make a difference right in their own backyard. Clients of the Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are now benefitting from remote locations being established at community centers such as Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) in Walker County, Georgia.


In November of last year, Orange Grove Center officially reached out to GNTC about forming a relationship in the community. “Our primary purpose is to allow the people we support with intellectual disabilities to be able to receive and provide services in the community,” said Tera Roberts, Orange Grove Center Director of Adult Services. “Individuals in the program ride in vans to the college each weekday morning. From there, they will go to different places in the area to work, volunteer, and recreate.”


In just four months since the two organizations first spoke with each other, a lot of progress has been made. “We are new to campus, but we already feel welcomed,” added Roberts. “The administrators at Georgia Northwestern have been incredible to work with and super supportive of our mission. As we continue to grow closer, we hope some of the people we serve in the program will be able to volunteer in different capacities on campus.”


Orange Grove Center began as a recycling facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, approximately 20 miles away from GNTC’s Rock Spring, Georgia-based campus. Today, though, this non-profit organization is establishing remote sites like the one at GNTC across Northwest Georgia. Orange Grove Center serves nearly 1,000 people with disabilities each year.


“We are incredibly proud to be able to provide this opportunity for our friends from the Orange Grove Center, said Dr. Michael Fennell, GNTC Dean of Business and Industrial Technologies. Sandra McBride serves as the on-campus supervisor at GNTC’s Walker County Campus location of the Orange Grove Center. Blake Clark is the Lead Direct Support Professional and Nell Dodson and Joe Damsi are Direct Support Professionals available to help with the needs of their clients.


Before the remote sites, clients of the Orange Grove Center would have to be transported to other facilities, away from where they live, to be a part of other communities somewhere else. Now, the new Orange Grove Center site is up and running in Walker County, Georgia. They are looking for opportunities for their clients to work and volunteer in Walker County, Georgia. For more information, feel free to contact Orange Grove Center Coordinator Cathy Durham at 423-486-4869 or


Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 16,402 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,750 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 8,652 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.  For more information about GNTC, visit us at The Student Help Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 844-348-7659 or via online chat at GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.