DeAnn Taylor

In recent days thousands of parents have been forced to juggle between going to work and caring for their children sent home because of school closures amid the Covid19 pandemic.
But what if your child had no school to return to? Such is the case for many special needs students who need full-time care into adulthood. When these students age-out of the school system at 22-years-old, it often leaves parents in the same predicament with few options.  This is where Next Step Ministries comes in. Next Step works with individuals with special needs and helps parents and families, so collectively they can lead full, rich lives.
This week we feature DeAnn Taylor. She and her daughter Ashley have felt the grace of Next Step Ministries, who attends the program five days a week. DeAnn was raised and grew up in East Cobb graduating from Walton High School.  She received her BBA from UGA and worked for Georgia Pacific as a computer analyst/manager until 1997 when she became a stay-at-home mom.  Five years ago she started working part-time as a Business Manager at Delta Associates in Holly Springs, and she is active in Woodstock City Church.

How long have you lived in Woodstock?  

After graduating from UGA, I lived all over Atlanta in different apartments working downtown at Georgia-Pacific.  In 1992, I married my husband who I met at Georgia-Pacific and we bought a home in Woodstock.  We looked all over the greater Atlanta area, but we fell in love with Woodstock and the thought of raising a family here.  We still live in the same house and are so thankful we moved to Woodstock.

DeAnn, her husband and their daughter Ashley.

What had been your experience raising a child that is neuro-typical with a child that has special needs?  

You know as a mom you just always worry about your children whether they have special needs or are neuro-typical.  When my daughter was first diagnosed at two with developmental delays, I truly worried that no one other than family would love and appreciate her.  I worried that my son’s life would be altered negatively by having a special needs sister. Yet these things didn’t happen at all.
The people of Woodstock embraced both my children by providing all kinds of love and support; from the school system to friends, coaches, and neighbors.  It is hard to find the words to express how much the people of Woodstock have blessed my children.  When my daughter graduated from High School, I started worrying about what her day would look like.  The old feeling that no one would love her or appreciate her crept up again.
That is what makes Next Step such a blessing to us and so many other families. It can be really hard taking care of someone’s every need (feeding, dressing, bathing, etc.) I have never seen or heard of any organization like Next Step that cares and serves for the disabled but also the entire family as well.

How did you become involved with Next Step Ministries?

My daughter Ashley goes to Next Step. Lori Baker was her physical therapist when she was four years old in the public school system for about a school year, and we loved her immediately. Then we reconnected when my daughter was in second grade. At that time, Lori was telling me that she felt a calling to open a facility for adults with special needs. And to be honest, at that time nothing was further from my mind because I was just trying to inundate my own daughter into an everyday routine.

I would run into her at different events in the community and she would tell me what she was doing. Then one time I saw a bus go by that read, “Next Step Ministries” and I was like, she sure is getting stuff done!

I started working about four years ago when my daughter was in high school. During the summers she began going to Next Step Ministries’ summer camp program. Now she is there full-time Monday through Friday.

Tell us about your first day. How were you feeling going in?

I was very nervous. But as soon as we walked in, several people embraced us and talked specifically to Ashley. They asked her questions and tried to make her calm and at peace as much as possible. She was nervous too, but by the end of the day, she was all smiles. Even now she is all smiles just going to Next Step, and on the weekends, she is disappointed that she’s not there! [laughs]

Ashley is a full-time client of Next Step Ministries.

What do you think makes Next Step Ministries different from other facilities?

I know some people who have actually moved to Woodstock because of Next Step. Many parents have had trouble finding facilities at all, so Next Sep has certainly helped in that way. But some parents have also found facilities that were not efficient or acceptable, so finding Next Step for those families is huge.

In my experience, it’s a place filled with love. The people there provide support and love to the whole family, to grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Because when you have a disabled family member, everybody’s impacted. Next Step, they just embrace each and every one of us. They have also helped by making suggestions about my daughter’s equipment which has improved her quality of life more than I’ve ever seen, it’s incredible.

 

What activities do they offer that stand out to you?

All kinds of crafts, outside activities like bowling, and there is a music program once a week with a music therapist. Then they work on job skills, occupational therapy, and make things they can sell in the community.

 

How has being part of Next Step impacted your life?

Because Next Step gives so much to our family. It leaves us with the energy to give back to others in the community. We can be more available in our churches and in our school system since our family is so well-supported.

You said you’ve grown up in Marietta and moved here in ’92. What are some of the changes you’ve seen?

Well, Towne Lake Parkway for one [laughs]. The city of Woodstock has just really taken off with the restaurants and everything, and all the new schools that have been built since we’ve moved here.

 

With your family, are you able to partake in a lot of the things that go on in the downtown area? How has that been for you?

We decided a long time ago that we were going to take Ashley wherever we need to go, whatever we need to do. We don’t let anything stop us, and the community has embraced us. It might be a little awkward from time to time, but we work through it together. Elm Street has also been great to us and our family. Going to the movie theater has been a fun thing for us to do. We recently saw Frozen II and it was great.

 

What restaurants in Woodstock have been a good experience for you and your family?

El Ranchero. Also, Gameday Fresh Grill. Their hamburgers are wonderful.

What is Ashley’s favorite food there?

Ashley loves everything there! [laughs]

 

What is something on your “bucket list”?

It would be to make Lake Allatoona more handicapped accessible.

What do you think could they do?

They could provide ramps and ways to navigate the beaches better. But that is something I will look into because we have not made an effort to go there for a long time.

 

What advice would you give to a crowd of people?

Just to embrace people with disabilities. Just smile and be comfortable, and to not stare.

What are three words that come to mind when you think of home?

Family, God, and love.

Next Step Ministries, Woodstock, GA

Next Step Ministries in Community

Next Step remains open to support families in the wake of COVID-19 while they “monitor the situation through the CDC and GA Department of Health…” Although, “no reported close contact of family members with others with the COVID-19 virus,” they remain vigilant and are accepting donations, which can be made here.

NSM is a 501(c)3 non-profit supporting our families with special needs young adults by providing a variety of therapeutic day care services.  The clients we serve are in the low-moderate to severe and profoundly developmentally delayed, and medically fragile, young adults who have aged out of school.  This allows the family members to continue with their lives while knowing their loved one is being cared for during the day in an environment where they are loved and respected and can thrive in the community.  We service clients from Cherokee, Cobb, and the North Fulton areas.

 

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