Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, June 5 newspaper on Page A1.
HAMDEN — Tami Bay cherishes many memories of her time with Southern Ohio Adventures Recreation, but she especially loves the memory of the initial ribbon cutting ceremony and opening party in 2013.
Clients, friends and family gathered together at the Main Street location in Hamden that day to celebrate the fulfillment of a dream. Bay had wanted to bring an adult day habilitation center to the area.
“That’s the time that will forever be in my heart,” Bay said. “Such a special moment.”
Bay never imagined SOAR would grow into the movement it is now.
“It’s shocking,” she said. “All I wanted was my dayhab.”
Bay was born in Columbus. Her family came to Vinton County when she was 13 when her dad opened Dick’s Grocery Store on Union Ridge. Bay still calls Union Ridge home.
SOAR services individuals with disabilities and provides them an outlet for community, creativity, employment and exploration.
The organization offers habilitation services like cooking classes, arts and crafts and personal care classes, and transportation is available for program members. Clients can also enjoy movie nights, field trips and other fun activities. For example, individuals at SOAR recently held a mock trial. The group is also known for the “SOAR rocks,” which clients decorate and hide around the county. The goal is for local residents to find the rocks and re-hide them.
Before bringing SOAR to Hamden, Bay worked at Lake Hope State Park, Austin Powder and Rocky Boots. She also served on the Vinton County Board of Developmental Disabilities in 2001, the members of which she described as being “a second family.”
After she left the DD board, she said many of her former clients reached out and suggested she create her own day habilitation center. Family and friends gave their own encouragement.
“It’s where my heart was,” Bay said. “But I also had a good support team.”
Bay’s husband and children have since joined her in becoming involved in the organization.
At its start, SOAR consisted of one office in Hamden. Now, the organization has soared into seven counties aside from Vinton: Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Washington, Athens, Ross and Knox. The initial goal was to serve 10 clients in the first year. SOAR quickly doubled that number.
SOAR has seen further change and growth throughout the years. The Hamden location recently added an office building, which was brought on a truck in April as clients watched.
Bay describes her career as one with many highlights, but the daily highlight for her is watching the individuals SOAR serves grow and get to have opportunities they may not normally have.
“It’s a wonderful business,” Bay said. “We all feel great coming to work every day because we see the differences we make.”
Bay said her clients inspire her daily, and her career is her passion. She wants those who works with her to feel the same way.
“I’ve always told all the employees, if your heart’s not here, you might as well leave, because you’re not going to last,” she said. “You have to care.”
Bay may not have a lot of free time, but when she can, she fishes, goes camping or boating or spends time with her grandchildren.
SOAR’s activities are open to the public, and Bay said she welcomes local residents to visit the Hamden location to see what clients are up to.
Bay said her hope is to see SOAR grow even more by branching into new counties, reaching more people and touching more lives.
“I had a lot of setbacks, but it didn’t stop me from following my dream,” she said. “Follow your dreams, make sure your heart is in it, and don’t give up.”
Editor’s Note: ‘The Women of Vinton County’ is a monthly feature offering readers a chance to learn about the many women — past and present — who are known to be difference-makers in the community. If you have suggestions for a Woman of Vinton County to feature, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at 103 S. Market St., McArthur.