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Murfreesboro program needs help to provide Christmas gifts to people with intellectual disabilities

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

With Thanksgiving winding down, and Christmas less than a month away, dozens of folks with intellectual disabilities in Rutherford County could wake up with no gifts under the tree this year.

But a ‘Heart Tree' program, which works the same way as an Angel Tree, is in need of community help to make sure these folks, with the mindset of a child, are not forgotten and have to go without.

The Heart Tree in the vestibule of the Journey's in Community Living, 1130 Haley Rd, Murfreesboro, may be small in size, but the intent is big.

"Because it comes from the heart, that's why we named it the heart tree," said Rachel Burch, Journey's In Community Living human resources director. "It's things they really need."

The program is designed to provide gifts for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

"It really makes them feel really good when they receive a gift," Burch said.

The non-profit relies on the community to help provide three gifts each for at least 50 of the hundreds of clients it serves.

The wishes are basis – necessities like socks, shoes and clothing.

The individuals also can request non-essential gifts, but many still ask for basic items.

"Their wishes are very small, they ask for things like CDs, hair bows, and books to look at," Burch said.

Journeys In Community Living offers these individuals a hand up, not a hand out.

There is a vocational center where the people work for at least minimum wages and pay their own living expenses.

Many of them live in one of 20 houses across Rutherford County, as part of the non-profit's residential program.

"They provide work, get paid and get free training," said Mark Bell, Journeys In Community Living spokesperson. "The push is to move those folks to supported employment. We have placed clients at 15 area companies."

Folks at Journeys, formerly known as the Rutherford County Adult Activity Center, have been providing gifts for individuals through the Heart Tree for 17 years.

Journeys officials said these individuals have the mindset of a child, and many have little money and often times no family, which could mean no Christmas.

"To wake up Christmas morning and not find anything under the tree, it would be devastating to them, just like it would be to a child," Bell said.

The organization receives money from the Tennessee State Department of Intellectual Services, and is also a United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties partner.

If you would like to choose a heart from the Heart Tree, Journeys officials said all you have to do is purchases the gifts, wrap them and bring them by the office.

If you would like to make a monetary donation, and workers will do the work, you can call (615) 890-4389.

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