Horizons officials cite Moffat County woman as example of program success

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Craig resident Melinda Orr, 39, stands on the staircase at Horizons Specialized Services. For the past 15 years, Orr has received support services to help her cope with a learning delay and gain independence.

Vickie Flanders, a counselor for Horizons Specialized Services in Craig, said client Melinda Orr has come a long way.

“She’s grown into a flower,” Flanders said of Orr. “She needed a lot of TLC, but I think she’s finally made it to a rose.”

Orr has developmental disabilities.

But, that hasn’t stopped the Craig resident from living a full, independent life.

Orr is a homeowner, single mother to a teenage son and gainfully employed.

That wasn’t always the case, Flanders said.

Orr, 39, has been a Horizons client for the past 15 years.

“It’s been a slow growing process,” Flanders said. ‘We started out with someone who didn’t have any confidence at all. She felt there was nothing she could do right. She was frustrated with her son, and frustrated with everything.

“And then, we just slowly progressed.”

Flanders said the two have met nearly every week since 1996.

Horizons in Craig serves 32 clients with learning delays. Eight of the clients receive SLS, or Supported-Living Services.

“That’s like Melinda,” Flanders said of SLS clients. “They either live independently, or they live at home.”

Over the years, Flanders has coached Orr to manage her money, raise her child and earn her driver’s license.

“She’s progressed from being a mom, to being a very good mom,” she said. “From a client that had a lot of difficulties with getting her life straightened out to the point where now she has a job and she’s paying for her own home.”

Orr went to Horizons because she was struggling in life. Her problems began at an early age, she said.

“I used to have a hard time in school, that’s why I never finished high school,” Orr said. “I would have people harass me, pick on me and tease me. They would tell me, ‘You’re retarded. You’re stupid.’

“For the longest time, I couldn’t accept the situation, but as I’ve progressed through the years, I don’t let people get to me. I just ignore it. People can think what they want to think.”

When Orr arrived at Horizons, she had specific goals in mind.

“I needed some pointers — advice on parenting and financial issues,” she said. “I was writing checks that were bouncing.

“… I’ve gotten a lot better.”

In the beginning, Orr saw Flanders three times a week. Now, she meets with her counselor just once a week, for about an hour on Tuesdays.

In addition to one-on-one counseling, Orr is involved in activities three times a week at Horizons’ Day Program.

Alongside other clients, Orr participates in bowling, skiing, crocheting and more.

She also works for the organization as a housekeeper.

Between the money she earns from housekeeping and disability payments, Orr purchased a home in Craig nearly four years ago.

“I own a townhouse,” she said. “It’s got a living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.”

Flanders credits Orr for the strides she’s made. Flanders said some clients prefer to live solely on disability payments, but not Orr.

“She’s not just there to get her benefits,” Flanders said. “She’s trying very hard to improve herself and live as normal as everybody else.

“I think it’s one of our success stories.”

Orr said the SLS program has built her confidence.

“I love who I am,” she said. “And, I love being a great mother to my son.”

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