Huntsville’s Merrimack Hall Dedicates New Space for Adults With Disabilities

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center held a ribbon cutting Friday to celebrate the opening of its new 5,000-square-foot room dedicated to house “The Connection,” Merrimack’s new day program for adults with disabilities.

"There is just a huge need in our community for meaningful, substantive activities for adults with special needs," says Merrimack Hall founder Debra Jenkins. "Typically they live at home with their parents or they live in a group home."

In partnership with a grant from the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities (ACDD), The Connection provides social and cultural opportunities for adults with special needs in our community. It also allows adults with disabilities to develop meaningful relationships with their typical peers in the community.

"We do yoga, we do music therapy, creative writing we've done a little photography," explains Jenkins.

The Connection is currently open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Day programs are offered free of charge and consist of music therapy, life skills classes and yoga, with instructors trained to teach students with special needs. The day program is limited to 12 – 15 adults per session.

"This is I think where the greatest need is in our community," says Jenkins, "because once someone graduated form high school there is just so little opportunity for them to have meaningful work, for them to have opportunities to engage in the community so this is just our next natural step."

The Connection also offers a night event once a month throughout the year at Merrimack Hall. These events are free of charge to adults with disabilities and are staffed by Merrimack Hall employees as well as volunteers from local corporations and the community at large. Connection night favorites from the past have been Bingo night, Ice Cream Sundae night and Dance night. Participants at Connection night events often exceed 100 – 150 participants.

Jenkins says the goal is to offer Classes from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday by 2014.

The Connection is just one of five programs that comprise the Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) for children, teens and adults with disabilities. Other programs include Dance Your Dreams!Project UPInspired HeARTs, and Camp Merrimack. All together, JSAP serves 400+ individuals ages three through adulthood with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, cancer and a number of other disabilities.

All classes are offered at little to no cost to students and scholarships are available based on financial need.

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization started by Debra and Alan Jenkins.

If you have any questions about the event or about Merrimack Hall, please contact Niki Hogan-Ward,, 256-534-6455 ext. 102 or 256-426-6435.

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