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What Cans Can Do

By Kathy Barr



Denise Dennis glows when she talks about the West Texas Rehabilitation Center. As one of the center’s first clients back in the 1960’s, Denise benefited greatly from the therapy she received there. Denise was born with cerebral palsy. Her mother, Skeet, knew Denise had problems when, as an infant, she had to teach Denise how to nurse. {{more}} In addition, by the time she was one year old, she still could not walk. As she matured and was not learning how to talk, Skeet realized she had to provide her daughter with assistance so she would learn the basic skills needed to have a happy, productive life. Enter West Texas Rehab. For eleven years, Denise’s mother drove her there, and, free of charge, Denise received occupational, speech and physical therapies. Initially, Skeet took her to the center daily; as Denise grew older, the number of days per week decreased. Even after Denise entered a traditional classroom, though, she still went to rehab for several years to refine the skills she had developed. Denise has led a very productive life. She worked with Skeet at their home to provide day care for children for twenty years. Some of the “kids” still keep in touch with Denise and Skeet. Another skill Denise has developed is needlepoint; many of the members of the S. Orient Church of Christ, where the two worship, have bookmarks that she has made. Denise also knows how to use a computer, on which she checks for e-mails and plays games. In addition to being productive, Denise has quite a few friends. Denise counts several present and former employees of the rehab as friends. Fran and Della, both secretaries, keep in contact with Denise. She also hears from Shirley Smith, the wife of the administrator when Denise first started attending the rehab. Friends from the center recently sent her flowers when she had surgery. Denise wanted to thank the rehab for providing so much care for her. One day, she thought about collecting cans, turning them into a recycling center and donating the cash she earned to the rehab. With the assistance of family, friends, church members and others, Denise has been picking up and collecting cans in the garage of the home that she and Skeet share. Last year, Denise’s most profitable, she gave the center approximately $800. One of the people who help Denise is 85-year-old Cliff Cobb . On his daily walks, he picks up cans and periodically brings them over to Denise’s home. Sometimes he picks up as many as 200 cans in one day. Before Denise’s father died a few years ago, he was also an active participant in the can-collecting process. Even after he became ill, he helped Denise by crushing the cans she collected and taking them to the recycling center. Of course, the person who has been her major support is her mother. The two have always had a close relationship, and, especially since the death of Denise’s dad, they are especially close. “I’m blessed to have her,” said Skeet. “We’re best friends. I couldn’t love her more.” Skeet also said that Denise’s brother, Billy has been a blessing. Billy has always been willing to help her sister when she needs it, Skeet said. In addition to collecting cans for the rehab, Denise attends the yearly telethon that the center sponsors and is usually one of the first presenters of checks to the facility’s personnel at the end of the day. Many in her home town of Stamford tune in to the telethon just to see Denise. Some have told Denise that when she appears, the number of calls to the telethon increases significantly. Chances are, Denise and Skeet will continue their efforts for many years to come. Denise’s love and affection for the center that, in many ways, gave her life, is something she will hold on to forever. “I couldn’t do what I do without the rehab, God and my parents,” she said.

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