Sarah and Jerry are two of the nearly countless adults with developmental disabilities whom The Mustard Seed have helped over its now 40 years of operation, a milestone the nonprofit plans to celebrate this year. Photo courtesy The Mustard Seed
The Mustard Seed in Brandon, a Christian community for adults with developmental disabilities, celebrates its 40th year of operation this year. Parents of adult children with special needs founded the organization in 1981 to provide a loving and protected environment that allows the 40 "Seedsters" aged 23 to 73 to fulfill their potential. The residential and day-camp facility, which is privately funded, takes its name from having "faith as big as a mustard seed" from Matthew 17:20.
To celebrate the milestone, the nonprofit has planned several projects, including sprucing up the 14-acre campus, as well as adding an outdoor cafe furnished by picnic tables with umbrellas.
"A large part of our budget comes from gift-shop sales, especially the 4,000 Christmas ornaments available each winter," Community Relations Director Mandy Sisson says. "But for our anniversary this spring, we've partnered with Wyatt Waters to offer a limited-edition print, signed and numbered, as a fundraiser."
The Mustard Seed encourages its Seedsters to be as independent as possible while keeping families involved.
"We have worked hard to create an environment that is as far from an institution as possible," Sisson says. "Day campers go home every evening and residential Seedsters go home for special occasions." To encourage family time for both Seedsters and staff, The Mustard Seed observes Easter, Memorial Day weekend, Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas. During these times, the campus and group homes are closed.
A typical day for a Seedster includes "going to work" (painting ceramics and giving tours of the facility to visiting guests) and then free time for watching movies, attending Cooking Club, riding bikes and other exercise programs, or enjoying the gardens. The campus also houses Mustard Seed University, a learning hub offering classes in photography, history, American Sign Language, pottery and more.
Residents live in either the men's or women's group home, with house parents on-scene to lead the way, while day campers join in activities throughout the week. During the regular Fun Fridays events, Seedsters venture out in the community to see movies, to visit fairs and festivals, to shop, and to enjoy a myriad of other activities.
"We are so proud of our Seedsters," Sisson says. "These very special adults paint ceramics for sale in our gift shop and act as ambassadors out in the community."
Musically inclined Seedsters can join Bells of Faith, a handbell choir that offers concerts year-round. Interested parties can book the group to perform patriotic songs or Christmas hymns. The more outgoing artists show off their skills by painting in coffee shops, the lobby of the YMCA and in the grand gallery at the Museum of Art.
"This is an amazing place to work," Sisson finishes. "At first, most people only see the disability, and they want to do everything for (the residents). But after spending just a short time with the Seedsters, you realize they're giving you much more in return."
To learn more about The Mustard Seed and its plans for the nonprofit's 40th anniversary, call 601-992-3556 or visit mustardseedms.org. Michele D. Baker lives in Belhaven in a restored 1920s bungalow with three cats and too many books. She enjoys world travel, reading and anything chocolate.