Programs for Exceptional People (PEP), a non-profit organization, is committed to empowering adults with special needs in southern Beaufort County by promoting independence, and offering opportunities for social growth and maturity. Southern Beaufort has a large number of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who need and deserve opportunities for inclusion, independence, empowerment, and employment. PEP is the only southern Beaufort County organization providing programs and services for adults with special needs.
PEP has been around for 16 years, however the Pottery Program has only been around for the last 18 months, and it has really taken off. PEP was able to begin this program after receiving a grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry given specifically to start the Pottery Program. The grant financially allowed the organization to hire a part-time pottery instructor, Ms. Wanda Eastham, for a year, and purchase a professional kiln, clay, glazes, and other necessary supplies. The Pottery Program was able to employ members, Susan Bensch, Amanda Chase, Corey McCall, Sharon Schuur, Paula Mack, and Nicole Swetz. These members are now trained to make pottery by cutting and rolling clay, shaping it over a mold and creating a design. The pottery then dries and is fired in the kiln. Following this initial firing, the potters then get creative, glaze their pottery, and fire it once again.
The program was able to become self-sufficient after the first year. Ms. Eastham was able to train our amazing pottery volunteers, who have been coming faithfully over the last year-and-a-half. PEP members work on their pottery every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours each day, with the assistance of volunteers who give guidance, praise, and prompts as needed.
This program has proved to be so much more than giving the members an activity to do. I have seen each of the members grow in so many ways since the program's inception. It has given them all self-confidence. It is wonderful to see them take pride in the work they produce. It is also amazing to see some members that are very reserved while at PEP, be so outgoing when selling their work at the Bluffton Farmers Market. To me, it is personally rewarding when I hear people comment that they already have a piece of "so and so's" work, and how they just love it, give it as gifts, and collect it! What's even more special is when that particular member is there to hear someone talk about his or her work. Usually, their faces are all smiles; they are like celebrities!
Another important factor is that the members are able to get paid from the pottery they sell. Before getting paid, all of the potters met and discussed how much they should make as a group. They also decide if they want to keep all of the money or put some back into buying supplies to keep the program going. They choose to put some money back into the Pottery Program every time, because they enjoy it so much. In addition, all of the members that attend PEP are proud of the work their peers produce. We are a PEP family here and always here to support one another.