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June 09, 2012   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
334 613-4212
June 09, 2012

From left, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Rainbow Omega CEO Stentson Carpenter, Alfa and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby and Federation Board Member and Talladega County Farmers Federation President Dell Hill examine plants growing in one of four new greenhouses built with the help of a donation from Alfa.
EASTABOGA, Ala. -- Disabled adults have a safe place to do meaningful work thanks to a new vocational center and greenhouses dedicated June 8 at Rainbow Omega in Eastaboga.

The four new greenhouses were made possible, in part, by a donation from the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. The organization’s president, Jerry Newby, joined Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey for an open house at the facilities.

“There’s not many things you see in life that are as pure as love. This endeavor is love,” said Newby of the Rainbow Omega ministry. “We at Alfa and the Alabama Farmers Federation are blessed to be a part of this today, and we are blessed that God has given us the resources to do this.”

Rainbow Omega is a faith-based, residential and vocational community for adults with developmental disabilities. The campus is home to 79 residents and includes eight family-style group homes and a state-of-the-art medical facility for residents needing individualized care.

Inspired by their son, Chris, who is now a resident at Rainbow Omega, Stentson and Dianne Carpenter founded the non-profit organization in 1991 and opened the first two homes in 1995. Stentson, who serves as CEO of Rainbow Omega, said dedication of the 25,000-square-foot Chris Carpenter Work Center is a dream come true.

“The Bible says we were all created from a handful of dirt, and then God put a few dreams in our pockets,” Carpenter said. “We never want to underestimate the power of a dream. Today we are here to celebrate that dream coming true for Rainbow Omega.”

The $3 million work center was made possible through private donations as well as grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, the Calhoun County Community Foundation and the Arc of North Talladega County. Alfa gave $60,000 over two years for construction of the greenhouses, with additional funding coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ivey was introduced to the work at Rainbow Omega by her chief of staff, Steve Pelham, who assisted the organization with other construction projects while previously serving as state director of USDA Rural Development. 

The lieutenant governor praised the Rainbow Omega board of directors and staff for their compassion and stewardship.

“Your commitment, vision and dedication...has built a foundation of hope and a solid foundation for the future that’s impacted thousands of lives to date, and more to come,” Ivey said.

“The vision of the founders of Rainbow Omega was to provide a sheltered community for adults with developmental disabilities and provide an answer to the question, ‘What will happen to my child when I’m no longer able to provide care in my home?’” Ivey added. “One of our parents said it best when she said, ‘Rainbow Omega is the answer to a prayer I didn’t know how to pray.’”

During the open house, Ivey presented Chris Carpenter a proclamation naming him an honorary lieutenant governor.

The Carpenter Work Center includes comfortable space where residents earn a paycheck while performing work for private companies. One client is Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, which contracts with Rainbow Omega to assemble the owner’s manual packets for all the vehicles manufactured at its Lincoln plant. The new building also boasts a cafeteria capable of seating all the residents for lunch. Previously, residents had to eat in three shifts because the cafeteria was so small.

The building also includes office space, a training facility for staff and an exercise room for the residents. Carpenter said an exercise plan would be tailored for each resident.

Meanwhile, the four new greenhouses supported by Alfa will not only provide work opportunities for the residents, but they also will provide a sustainable source of revenue for Rainbow Omega. With the additional space, the charity now has nine greenhouses. The residents help grow a variety of annuals and perennials in the spring and mums in the fall, but their signature crop is poinsettias. Last year, Rainbow Omega sold 3,800 of the Christmas plants, and this year Carpenter expects to sell 7,000.

“Our residential program doesn’t receive any money from the state or the federal government to pay for our residents to live here,” he said. “So the work center and the greenhouses all contribute. Hopefully, someday, we will be self-supporting here as we work toward that goal.”

Ivey said the public-private partnership cultivated by Rainbow Omega should serve as a model to government agencies. She added that elected officials should take note of how effectively and efficiently the organization is operated.

“Faith-based organizations like Rainbow Omega play an important role in our society and provide an alternative to traditional government-led models,” Ivey said.

“When parents are no longer able to provide the level of care for their children Rainbow Omega is giving them the answer and optimism they might not find anywhere else,” she said. “You continue to create an environment where individuals — men and women — can find relevance and purpose and joy and self worth. (It’s a place where) parents can find tranquility and know their loved one is safe — and (where) they can find an answer to prayer.”

For more information about Rainbow Omega, visit www.rainbowomega.org.

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