Spotlight On: OPTIONS in Hammond, LA

Hammond, Louisiana, holds a special place in my heart. I am very proud to say that I had the opportunity to spend four amazing years in the city at the local university. I spent years of my life there before moving to Baton Rouge with my husband.

It’s so great to see a local organization that dedicates their passion and skills to improving the lives of others. After learning about a company that is doing their part to better the Greater Hammond community, I knew we had to shine the spotlight on them.

OPTIONS is a local non-profit that is making an incredible impact in the Tangipahoa Parish area by providing premier services such as day programs, employment opportunities, and community living to people with disabilities.

We talked with OPTIONS Chief Program Officer Carrie Mercke at OPTIONS to find out more about their company, what their business does, and how they impact and help their residents and the local community.

How did OPTIONS get its start?

OPTIONS became an organization that serves people with disabilities in 1972 when Mary Pirosko moved here from Illinois.

She and her family were looking for services for their son who has a disability, and she wanted him to continue to live at home with her. At the time, the only services that were available were state 24-hour care institutional services.

Mary worked with the community, and in 1973 they began providing community-based services for people of all ages with disabilities.

What products or services does OPTIONS offer?

OPTIONS’ mission is to help individuals with disabilities live and work in the community. We help maximize life skills, provide support beyond the family, meaningful work and activities, and community involvement.

What markets do you serve?

OPTIONS serves the greater Tangipahoa Parish area, including parts of St. Tammany and Livingston Parish.

What’s the one thing OPTIONS is known for? Why are you known for that?

OPTIONS is best known for our dynamic day programs and variety of work opportunities for people with disabilities. Participants are able to choose which day program activity they wish to participate in whether it be on our campus or in the community.

We offer opportunities to work at Fabulous Finds resale store in Ponchatoula, the Weaving Studio located on our main campus, a variety of cleaning crews that clean places such as Southeastern Louisiana University and the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Sub-station, and many other opportunities.

What was the biggest “win” in the history of OPTIONS?

There are a large number of wonderful things that have happened in the course of our history of serving people with disabilities for over 46 years. One of the greatest wins is the community support for people with disabilities.

The second great win occurred after Hurricane Katrina. It became evident that in the event of another natural disaster, people with disabilities needed a safe, secure place that would meet their individual needs. OPTIONS worked with the community and state legislature to help build a beautiful building that is hurricane-proof.

Safe Haven was built on OPTIONS’ main campus in 2011. It serves as a day program that provides comprehensive support Monday – Friday from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, but in a weather emergency it serves as a shelter with cots, linens, food, generator, full laundry, wheel chair accessible showers, and other necessities.

This multipurpose building is a daily asset to help people with disabilities. The facility provides reassurance of a safe place to go in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. We used the building in Hurricane Isaac, during the 2016 flood, and snow events.

How is OPTIONS active in the community?

OPTIONS is active in the community through both meaningful work and community partnerships. Enrichment programs are based on partnerships with local community businesses such as Affiliated Therapy, Tangi Lanes, and PARD #1.

Participants enjoy being able to be a part of their community and actively engage in activities.

What advice or quote has had the most impact on OPTIONS?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Meade

Tangipahoa Parish is the epitome of collaboration. Coming together to make things happen every day for people with disabilities.

Are there any interesting or fun facts you’d like to share about OPTIONS?

OPTIONS has its 3rd Annual Charity Ballin’ 4 OPTIONS basketball game returning on September 28, 2019.

OPTIONS participants create two teams and battle head to head to claim the title of Ballin’ 4 OPTIONS Champions! Players spend 3 months practicing with the help of Southeastern Ladies Basketball Team and Spoga to prepare.

Be sure to follow OPTIONS4U on Facebook for more details on our upcoming event!

Are there any current or upcoming sales, promotions, or events you’d like our fans and members to know about?

OPTIONS Garden Center is in full swing this spring! There are weekly sales that can be found on the OPTIONS Garden Center Facebook page or head to the Garden Center located at 19362 West Shelton Road to see what’s blooming!

OPTIONS Fabulous Finds and OPTIONS Weaving Studio also run sales and promotions monthly. Check them both out on Facebook to see what promotions are available today!

What’s the most rewarding part about working for OPTIONS?

The most rewarding part of working at OPTIONS is getting to see the progress the participants make over time.

Some of our participants have been part of the OPTIONS family for over 30 years. We have had the opportunity to watch their journey as they achieve personal goals and create a life they desired for themselves.

How many people are in your workforce, and who are the people behind the organization’s success?   

There are a total of 250 employees at OPTIONS who are working days, nights, weekends, and holidays. The people behind our organization’s success are the direct care staff who dedicate their lives to providing the best quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

What makes OPTIONS unique?

OPTIONS is unique in that we are a social services agency that expands far into the individual’s lifespan. We are there for their entire life time.

OPTIONS serves in a holistic approach to help provide housing, financial planning, employment, counseling, and social integration for individuals with disabilities.

How can people join your team?

You can apply on our website options4u.org/online-application or visit us on our main campus to fill out an application at 19362 West Shelton Road Hammond, LA, 70401 to join our team!

Is your company interested in partnering with Pelican as Select Employer Group and getting the chance to get featured on our blog? To learn more, contact a Business Development Representative today by sending an email to businessdevelopment@pelicanstatecu.com or visit pelicanstatecu.com/partner.