By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
Four years after it opened, Opportunity House, a day program for mentally challenged adults in Lavonia, has closed its doors.
According to Opportunity House Board Chair Andrea Robinson, Opportunity House has been struggling financially for the past couple of years.
She said the decision to close came after Opportunity House Director Pam Royston chose to resign following the recent death of her son.
Robinson said the board could not afford to pay Royston.
“She could not physically and emotionally handle the difficulty of the job when she was getting not even half of her salary and we felt like we were not in a position to hire someone else when we couldn’t pay her salary,” Robinson said. “We were privileged to have Pam as Opportunity House program director. She always served the clients with compassion and devotion to their needs. Also we continue to extend to Pam and her family our sincere condolences in the recent accidental death of her son, Rusty.”
Begun in 2009, Opportunity House operated for the first three years out of the Corum House, which was owned by Lavonia First Baptist Church.
There, developmentally challenged adults were taught life and social skills, such as grocery shopping and doing the laundry so that they might one day be able to live in a group home setting.
But last year, after the church decided to give the Corum House away, Royston said the program was already struggling financially and suffering from a lack of volunteer help.
Opportunity House then moved to two different locations last year and was most recently located in offices behind the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store off State Highway 17.
Robinson said under the group’s charter, all of the equipment and furniture belonging to Opportunity House must be given to another similar group.
She said it will be donated to a state-run program called Avita.
“Their CEO, Cindy McLaughlin, came and looked at our things and we can at least say they will use our assets for the same purposes as we used them in our community,” Robinson said.
Avita currently runs programs for developmentally challenged adults in Toccoa, Hartwell, and Carnesville.