CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - The MS Flowers Outreach Center held its grand opening on Monday, April 17 in Cairo, Illinois.
The facility offers many different classes and activities relating to autism awareness and caretaker training, education, health, employment and more.
Many people stopped by the center on Monday to check out the new facility and what they had to offer.
There were different booths, including one from Shawnee Community College, Family Counseling Center and Dental Safari Company. They also had pamphlets on hand and sign up sheets for different services.
Jeff Simmons of Olive Branch said they haven't had many resources in the area and thinks this is a great way to help provide for residents in southern Illinois in a variety of ways.
"There's nowhere around for them to go," Simmons said. "They can come here and play on their laptops or dance or whatever and not have to worry about anything. It's what it's for, it's for them."
Simmons said this will benefit his nieces and nephews.
Other people agreed and said it would out their children and grandchildren.
"Cairo needs as many youth programs to provide safe places for kids, especially through our nutrition side where we can get the funding through SNAP for them to come in and have a safe place to learn things about nutrition and 4H," said Kristi Stout, youth developer educator at the University of Illinois Extension.
The mission of the MS Flowers Outreach Center is to provide access to comprehensive and specific needs relating to education, health, employment and much more.
The outreach center is named after Stephanie Marie Flowers. She was diagnosed with autism at an early age and needs assistance with her everyday needs.
"She's been on a list for 5 years to receive services," Deborah Johnson Flowers said. "She's just been on a waiting list and that's partially due to the situation in Illinois with the budget."
Stephanie's mother, Deborah Johnson Flowers of Cairo, said that services are lacking in this area for those like her daughter Stephanie which is why she brought the outreach center to the area.
"Everything she needs has to be physically done, provided from showers to baths... everything," Johnson Flowers said.
That's one reason why they wanted to open up a facility here focusing on raising awareness of autism and caregiver training in health and wellness so they can help others with special needs in the area.
Other services include computer classes, veteran services, cooking lessons, family activities and more.
"This is needed ten times over in this area," Johnson Flowers added. "We have the housing situation. We have the grocery store. No gas stations and no laundry mats. One of the things we hope to offer in the future is showers and laundry where you can sign up to take a shower or do laundry."
Johnson Flowers is the director of education talent search at Shawnee Community College. The college is one of many partners that will participate in teaching different classes or events at the outreach center. Other partners include the University of Illinois Extension, American Red Cross and more.
The center will be volunteer based and will offer classes and activities that will be mostly free to the public.
The outreach center is something many people in the area feel is necessary for Cairo.
"We don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We have 100 percent free and reduced lunch in our county and our school district so I want to try to impact every area that we can possibly impact and improve lives," Johnson Flowers said.
Johnson Flowers also said one of the reasons they are able to provide some of these services for free is due to saving on electricity to the building
They currently have solar panels hooked up and have ordered a Tesla battery to add to saving the power and money.
In addition to that, Johnson Flowers is planning to obtain a solar smartflower panel as well as a Tesla Power Station set up along the street to power vehicles that come through the area.
"We want to help restore the family and the nature of the family and sticking together," Johnson Flowers said. "I want to put the unity back in community. That's what this is about."