The Family Life Center at Horn Lake’s First Baptist Church has been busy on Saturday mornings the past couple of weeks, not for expressions of faith, but rather allowing those with special needs to express themselves to the world.

Now in its 12th year and second year in the Horn Lake church, the advocacy group The Arc Northwest Mississippi is holding what it calls Art to Achieve.

Over the course of four Saturday mornings, a program that continues through Feb. 10 involves 50 artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities who create their own works of art.

At the same time, participants also do music and some fun recreational activities for a break from the arts and crafts table rotation.

"We have 50 artists that are participating and signed up for the program,” said The Arc Northwest Mississippi Executive Director Rebecca Treadway. “We usually have about 55 volunteers that come in and work with us each week to make the program run."

The volunteers range from middle school and high school students to adults who guide and help the artists make items to take home. Some of the items are also used at auction to raise funds for the Arc at fundraiser events, such as the annual Boots and Barbecue.

"Art is a wonderful way of self-expression and allowing them to say the things they want to say through art and through music and having a good time with their friends,” Treadway said.

Among the volunteers last Saturday for Art to Achieve were members of the Horn Lake High School choral program, led by director Holly Beck, who said their presence was an extension of their desire to give back.

"The student leaders a few years ago really wanted to become more involved in the community,” Beck said. “The past couple of years we've been stepping forward and trying to add more things to our agenda. We love the fact that it is hosted in our own backyard.”

Beck noted part of the morning for Art to Achieve featured a music room where a music therapist was working with the participants.

“We have several students that are interested in music therapy as a career option,” Beck said. “They also get a chance to get in there and be a part of that. We're getting something out of this as well while we're giving to others."

Treadway points out the ability to give people with special needs activities to allow them to do things mainstream people take for granted is important and welcome.

"The need in the community is just enormous,” Treadway said. “There are always people with special needs who need special things to do that are fun and just for them. It's just a recipe for success, everyone loves it and it gets bigger year after year."

Having Art to Achieve in Horn Lake for its second year also allows the western part of DeSoto County to be exposed to what The Arc Northwest Mississippi does.

"We are so happy to be hosted at Horn Lake First Baptist Church,” Treadway noted. “We love getting our volunteers from Horn Lake High School, the Horn Lake Mayor's Youth Council and all the other local high schools that drive over here to Horn Lake to help us. Lewisburg, Olive Branch and DeSoto Central are also among those volunteering."

"This is a fantastic event,” Beck added. “It is run so well and is a magnificent opportunity for the kids to do something for someone else."

For more information about Art to Achieve and The Arc Northwest Mississippi, contact Treadway at 901-907-9041.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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