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Designed to raise funds

Sales of the holiday ornaments will help New Horizons Group Homes for adults.

New Horizons Group Homes hope its latest Christmas keepsake ornament will help decorate its coffers with new funds.

New Horizons unveiled its new ornament last week during a celebratory barbecue at Central Baptist Christian School.

The sale of the ornaments represents a major, annual fundraiser for the nonprofit group home, which provides a Christian, family, group-living alternative for developmentally challenged adults.

The faith-based organization began in 1992, with the first of two homes opening in 1999. The homes are divided according to sex and the 11 residents who live in the two homes require different levels of care and are active members of their community. Most of the residents have jobs in the community as well.

Due to ongoing rising costs and declining funding from state and local government agencies such as the Agency for Person's with Disabilities (APD), the home's need to raise funds from fundraisers has grown significantly. Residents of the homes pay a monthly fee to live there, but it is never enough to cover actual costs.

"Some of the residents have Downsyndrome, some have special needs, with all different levels of developmental issues and life challenges," said New Horizons director Peter Watkins. "All of our residents are special."

The mission of the group home: "Our vision is to provide an enabling, nurturing atmosphere for our residents."

Watkins has seen a steady decline in services that help to support the group home including med-waiver funding, transportation funding, various support systems and supportive employment for the residents.

When these support systems fail, the home, in turn, absorbs more of the costs for each of the 11 residents. That's why support from the surrounding community and businesses is so important to these individuals.

Another troubling trend is the older parents of developmentally challenged adults who don't plan for the care of their children and can't afford to pay for their care, as the Social Security Supplemental Security Income or disability funds provided by the government wouldn't cover the monthly fee of a group home.

This year's ornament features the Brandon Chamber of Commerce building in its newest location. Along with the chamber's building, the ornament features a replica of the "Welcome to Brandon" sign at the top and the years: "1959-2012," across the bottom of the ornament.

Each ornament also comes with a historical card telling about the business it features. The chamber's card features its mission, along with the history of the chamber, founded in 1959 by James Blanton, the first president.

Lora Eisenberg is the artist who has donated her time and talent in creating 13 of the 18 annual ornaments for New Horizons. The ornaments are plated in 24-karat gold and depict historical places in the Brandon community such as Yates Elementary, Scogins, Martin's Jewelers, Mulrennan Groves, Carey Cattle Company and many others.

Each year the fundraiser sells the new and old ornaments to raise money for their facilities. Due to rising production costs, the newest ornament is $20 and the older ones are sold for $10.

The ornament can be found at many local businesses to include: Age's Art & Frame, Bill's Prescription Center, First Baptist Church of Brandon, First United Methodist Church of Brandon, Greg's Hallmark, Martin's Jewelers, Rainbow Engraving, the Frame Shop and Gallery and Victorian Tea Room. These businesses are friends of New Horizons and receive no profits from the sale of the ornaments.

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Fast facts

For information on New Horizon Group Homes, please visit or call Peter Watkins at (813) 571-2690.