Jackson Co. Learning Center expanding to better serve community

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The Jackson County Learning Center works with adults who have disabilities, and it has operated from the same building for the past 52 years. The agency recently bought a piece of property near the center of Newport and plans to build a new facility there, but it needs to acquire money to relocate.

"They probably take better care of me than I do them. They really do," Tammy Jones said.

Jones has worked as a classroom instructor at the learning center for the last 15 years. She currently helps out 25 adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her classroom, though, has fallen into disrepair, and she says the agency needs a new facility now more than ever.

"Oh, it's so exciting to know that there's a possibility that it can improve around here for them because they're the most important part of this job," Jones said.

There now seems to be hope on the horizon. The agency purchased three acres of land in Newport, and it plans to relocate from the Airbase to build its future home.

"It was the most wonderful thing for me when we had the sign painted and put up at the new location that says 'future home of Jackson County Learning Center,'" Pat Fisher said.

Fisher has been the agency's executive director for 26 years, and plans to retire at the end of the year. She says it's her "swan song" to secure $1 million for a new facility.

"It's not a good place for the folks. It's not a good place for my employees," Fisher said. "We need to be in a safe, healthy, nice and professional building so that we can provide better services for more people."

The center's day habilitation program teaches a variety of skills to 25 disabled adults, but a new facility could extend that service to 40 people. More could also receive employment. The agency allows some in its care to work part-time in its thrift store in downtown Newport.

"When I get to give them a paycheck, that's the best part of all," Fisher said.

The Jackson County Learning Center has hired a grant writer to help the agency apply for money for the new facility.

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