Google the word “checkers” and you will find one of the top sites entitled “Games for the Brain.” Liz Phillips, Day Program Supervisor with the Southeastern Division of Evergreen Life Services, loves to tell the story of how this simple game revealed the hidden brain power of Bobby Nagin, an individual diagnosed with intellectual disabilities with whom she has worked for many years, beginning in the mid-1970s at the Hammond State School.

Phillips had been playing checkers with another individual, whom she allowed to win. Nagin, who was watching the game, did not have the ability to articulate, but he certainly had the power to communicate.  And he let Liz know – vociferously – that he objected to her making wrong board moves.  Phillips laughs, when she tells how Nagin’s emotive reaction prompted her to challenge him to their own game – which he won!  As a result, Phillips moved for more attentive care of Nagin, which opened the door to more complete development of his unique capacities, including his ability to enjoy television.

For the last five years, Phillips and Nagin have been with Evergreen Life Services, a faith-based nonprofit, whose mission is to serve, provide for and champion individuals with disabilities. Currently in eight states, the Southeast Region of Louisiana, where Phillips and Nagin are associated, has the capacity to serve 156 individuals in their 22 community homes.  The homes, which are located in Albany, Baker, Baton Rouge, Hammond, Independence, Mandeville and Ponchatoula, will soon be served by a brand new training and educational day center, scheduled to open in Ponchatoula later this year.  The impressive new center, which is located at 40052 N. Hoover Road, will offer classes in music, sewing, reading, gardening, exercise and vocational training initially to as many as 80 individuals, with an eye for future expansion.

Nagin, who now has his own cell phone, as well as a thriving sweets and soft drink business, which he runs from the back of his wheel chair, is looking forward to getting back to work at the new center and seeing his friends, including Liz, on a more regular basis. Meanwhile, he enjoys their visits to his nearby ELS community home, where he enjoys watching his favorite soap opera, The Young and The Restless.