- Nita Butler, Co-Founder1926-2010
- Robert Butler, Co-Founder1927-2005
- John A. “Red” Rasberry1917-2010
Where did the Rehab Center come from?
In 1955, Nita Butler asked, “What can I, one person do”? Nita, a young mother of two boys, had a Cerebral Palsied brother, who in approximately the fifth grade had maxed out on services available to him, and others like him. Nita’s concern and drive led her to contact the United Cerebral Palsy office in Jackson; thus beginning the process of establishing a Cerebral Palsy Center in Tupelo. A grassroots organization developed comprised of parents, families, physicians, politicians and business leaders. It was then that John A. “Red” Rasberry, became involved because he, like Nita, had a Cerebral Palsied brother. It wasn’t long; however, before the founding fathers realized that affiliating with United Cerebral Palsy would limit them to an age group and only one disability. It was then that the organizers determined the agency should be the Regional Rehabilitation Center and could thus serve all ages and all disabilities. The Rehab Center was, therefore, incorporated in August 1961, with Red Rasberry serving as its first President. A few years later, while still serving as Chancery Clerk he became the part-time Administrator with Mayor James Ballard serving as Chairman/President of the Board of Directors representing eleven counties in Northeast Mississippi. Mr. Rasberry served as the Executive Director until 1995. Nita was, all the while, serving as the organization’s secretary.
The Board was given five acres of prime property that ultimately became the heart of the medical community by Dr. Robert Hugh Pegram. They obtained federal and state funds that had to be matched with local funds to build the 19,000 square foot state of the art facility at the cost of $324,000. They hired the first Physical Therapist in North Mississippi, who in later years left the Rehab Center adn started the Physical Therapy Department at the North Mississippi Medical Center. They recruited a Home Economics major and sent her to a university in the Midwest to obtain an Occupational Therapist degree. They hired a staff of six Speech Therapists, who along with serving the Center’s clients were also contracted out to the city schools, the county schools, and Headstart. Within a few years of opening the doors in 1962, an Audiologist was hired. The Rehab Center was then able to offer four services under one roof at no charge.
In 1998, Kay Mathews, speech pathologist was named Clinical Director and served in that position until 2002, at which time she was named Executive Director of the Center. Mrs. Mathews continues in this dual role presently. During her tenure, she has obtained an Early Intervention Grant which implemented a team approach to therapeutic treatment of children from birth to threeyears of age and housed at the Rehab Center. This, then, allowed Regional Rehabilitation to offer five services at no charge under one roof. Mrs. Mathews also obtained grants from the Mississppi Development Authority, to include Community Development Block Grant and Appalachian Regional Commission; Carpenter Foundation; and CREATE/Marchbanks Endowment to begin a much needed renovation to the Center. With the leadership of Aubrey Patterson, who served as Capital Campaign Director, the Regional Rehabilitation Center was blessed with a new “life”. Renovation began in May 2008 and was complete in 2010. The Rehab Center moved to the Mitchell Center at Traceway Retirement Community and continued to provide services throughout the renovation. The completion of the facility was celebrated with a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on January 26, 2010.
With the year 2011, Regional Rehabilitation Center has reached a monumental milestone. This year will mark the center’s 50th Anniversary. That is a major accomplishment for a non-profit health-care delivery agency. That means the citizens of this area, well over 150,000 families, have received services through this facility at no charge.
So, what does this “no charge” mean?
There is no charge to the client or his insurance company. No sliding scale fee; no socio-economic requirement. To this day, we are unaware of any agency that has replicated this concept. We are truly one of a kind.
How does Rehab give back?
Twice, under the leadership of Mr. Rasberry, the Rehab Center was a part of Tupelo’s successful All American City designation. Through the Mississippi State Department of Health, clinics are held at the Center throughout the year. A Cleft Palate Clinic is held four times a year bringing in 25-30 children to be seen by a Plastic Surgeon, a pediatric dentist, an oral surgeon, and orthodontists supported by the staff Speech Pathologists and Audiologist of the Rehab Center. Also four times a year an Orthopedic Clinic is held with six to eight doctors traveling from LeBonheur to see 75-100 patients. Again, staff support of the Physical and Occupational Therapy Departments is made available to these physicians. The Regional Rehabilitation Center has also been the launching point for several agencies that are now freestanding: McDougal Center, Vocational Rehabilitation (now known as AbilityWorks), the Work Opportunity Resource Center, Vocational Rehabilitation Center for the Blind(now known as REACH) and Royal Maid Industries for the Blind (now known as LC Industries). The Rehab Center has been instrumental in pilot projects, either in identification of need and partnering or releasing them to appropriate agencies. Three such projects have been the Hard of Hearing Classroom (which served Lee, Tippah, Benton, Union, Itawamba and Alcorn counties), the Physicaly Handicapped classrooms and the Dyslexia Program. In 1999 the Center, through grant funds fromt he Mississippi Department of Health, was named an Early Intervention site in Northeast Mississippi providing services to the 0-3 years of age population. And last, but not least, after almost fifty years, the Rehab Center has completed the much-needed $2,288,000 renovation. Currently, the Center is providing approximately 20,000 services annually to 2,000 clients in 25 counties in Northeast Mississippi.