July 1st saw the retirement of Rainbow of Challenges founder, Patti Manus, from the CEO post. Below is a wonderful tribute to her vision and accomplishments written by Scott Jester. Her path truly changed the path of so many others:
Patti Manus veered from the path.
From the time her oldest daughter Robin drew her first breath, Patti was faced with choices to make and what path to take.
Her precious daughter, a gift from God, was born with a variety of developmental disabilities. Robin would need extensive attention and round-the-clock assistance.
During the early 1960’s there was primarily the conventional path of state-run institutionalization.
Instead of placing Robin in a cold, institution hours away from her mother’s watchful eye, Patti knew there had to be a better life for her daughter.
Patti chose a different path.
In the beginning, she along with other mothers made weekly trips to Texarkana for treatment. But Patti could envision an even better future for her daughter and others from the view of her path.
In 1967, she made the decision to begin services for children with disabilities in the surrounding area in Hope, officially launching what was known as the School of Hope. A board of directors was formed and methods of treatment were researched.
Before the end of the 1960’s classes for six children with disabilities were conducted in the Boy Scout Hut in Hope’s Fair Park. And, the rest, as they say, is history. And, boy, what a history it has been.
“She wanted what was best for her daughter and for every other child she came in contact with,” said Eileen Cole, who served Rainbow of Challenges for 36 years.
“In the early years, everybody pitched in,” noted Cole. “Patti did everything. She picked up kids, she taught classes, everything. I don’t know how the woman made it from day to day.”
In 1974, the School of Hope/Rainbow of Challenges (ROC) received licensing to begin serving adults and at the same time opened a building with four classrooms on the Yerger campus. This enabled more individuals to be served, further spreading the umbrella of care.
“She nurtures well,” said Judy Watson, ROC’s Chief Operations Officer. “It’s funny, because you look at her as the mother of ROC and you respect that. When you know how she feels about something, it affects your decision making. I think a part of that comes from the respect we have for her.”
In 1981, a grant was written with the neighboring city of Nashville which opened the door to provide two group homes and 24 apartments in each city. It was a monumental move that would allow adult individuals with developmental disabilities to live together and share living experiences.
It wasn’t long after that when more group homes and apartments were opened in Hope with then Governor Bill Clinton on hand to oversee the ribbon-cutting.
The future was bright and both children and adults were reaping the benefits of the path Patti Manus blazed years earlier.
One of the biggest accomplishments for Patti and ROC was the dedication of Omega Home, the first Intermediate Care Facility for Developmentally Disabled individuals, complete with a full staff to oversee their every need.
In 1996, the children of Making Rainbows opened the doors of their new Child Care center and Rainbow of Challenges branched into Lafayette County, serving 50 children.
Her path then led northward to Arkadelphia. The need was great to serve adults with developmental disabilities there and it was answered with Project Empowerment and Rainbow Junction, which provide working opportunities to many.
“It’s that history she has in her head, not just of ROC, but of the services as they’ve grown,” stated Watson. “Starting from nothing and building it to where it is today and how that history of what worked and what didn’t work. She has all that in her head,” noted Watson. She’s been through that process where none of us has gone.”
While traveling down her path, one vision was never lost on Manus. It was to provide each and every individual dignity, the dignity she wanted for her daughter. She also emphasized providing independence and choices for everyone, something that was not present in the large institutions from which she strayed early on.
Rainbow of Challenges now serves more than 500 children and adult individuals with developmental disabilities spanning the entire southern half of Arkansas. It has become one of the premier providers not only in the state, but throughout the nation. Its models of treatment and housing are a source for many other providers on how things are done right.
“When you say Rainbow of Challenges, Patti Manus is synonymous with that because there would be no Rainbow of Challenges without Patti Manus,” said the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Director Mark Keith. “The jobs she helped create are making an impact because every one of those jobs makes another life better. It gives another person a quality of life, a dignity of life,” he continued. “I guess Patti Manus could be thought of as the CEO that makes life better for everybody.”
And, Hope, in turn, has embraced Patti Manus and Rainbow of Challenges. “The community just chose a Rainbow of Challenges client as Citizen of the Year,” Keith said. “I think that is indicative of the openness that this community has when dealing with Rainbow of Challenges folks. They are so much a part of the fabric of the community. Hope has heart for them.
“She has made our town a much better place to live for all of us especially for those with developmental disabilities. She has made an impact that for those of us our generation will not forget,” said Keith.
“There’s comfort in knowing she’s still going to be here and I can walk in the door and ask for input and get the history that only she knows,” Watson concluded.
The time, however, has come for Manus to lay down her pen as Executive Director, but by no means is she walking away from “the cause”. She begins blazing a new path as Director of Advancement, broadening the horizons for her and of course, for Rainbow of Challenges.