DDM home a labor of love for Houston woman

Sun News correspondentJanuary 15, 2014 

The Heart of Georgia Developmental Disabilities Ministries Inc. home for developmentally delayed adults opened three years ago, but the story of how it all came about started 42 years ago.

That was when Hulda and Hal Cook learned that their son Danny had Down syndrome.

Danny was several months old when the Cooks received his diagnosis after a bout with measles.

“I had one very bad night,” Hulda Cook remembered. “I spent it crying and crying. But during that night I realized that I couldn’t fall apart because this child needed me at my best, and from then on that’s how I felt.”

Thankfully for the Warner Robins community, Cook’s best for her own son turned into her best for other children as well.

In 2003, two parents of adult children with disabilities, Margaret Arnett and Janice Sheirling, came to Cook about building a home for the mentally challenged.

At the time, the Georgia Baptist Convention had a DDM program. The Rev. Richard Davis, CEO of the Georgia Baptist DDM program, was present at the first meeting that Cook held.

But while the local group was still in the planning stage, about two years later the DDM program severed ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Cook said she asked Davis if he thought that the group could do it on its own.

His answer: “If you are prepared to work very, very hard.”

In March 2005, an independent group, the Heart of Georgia DDM, was formed with the goal of building group homes in Warner Robins for adults with developmental delays.

The first resident moved into the home in June 2011. The home now houses six residents. In between there was a lot sweat, a lot of prayer and a lot of fundraising.

“Dr. Colson once said that the DDM house was built one cake at a time,” Cook said referring to the numerous bake sales she has held over the years to help raise funds.

Cook is unassuming about her own contribution, instead praising the Warner Robins community about embracing not only the concept of the DDM home but the residents as well.

“It is just wonderful how our community has come together,” Cook said. “We have had a great response from the community and a great committee. I have done nothing by myself.”

From free labor hanging plasterboard, to donated supplies to Sunday school classes that regularly hold bingo games and cookouts for the residents, from the beginning Cook said that the DDM home has been supported by the community. Cook said 90 percent of the home was built by volunteers.

Over the years, Cook said she has had many affirmations that the DDM home was of God. There were donations of time or of money. A friend of a friend helped in the construction.

The home opened in 2011 completely paid for, and now the Heart of Georgia DDM is raising money for a second home at the same site.

She has served as chairwoman and been the driving force of the Heart of Georgia DDM for the past decade, but Cook said she will soon be stepping down from her role.

Cook is fighting an aggressive form of lymphoma. But regardless of her own health, the DDM home and the residents it serves are at the forefront of her mind.

Cook called the DDM home her “life’s work.” But it has also been a ministry, a two-fold calling, to ensure there is not only a house but a home for adults with disabilities as well as some peace of mind for the parents who worry daily about what will happen to their child.

Contributions to the Heart of Georgia DDM can be mailed to 615 Corder Road, Warner Robins, GA 31088. All gifts are tax deductible.

Contact Alline Kent at 478-396-2467 or allinekent@cox.net.

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