Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mentally disabled man losing his eyesight wants to go to Animal Kingdom

PLANT CITY

Rodney Greene likes to tell stories of growing up in Palmetto Beach and then in Brandon, where his parents had a small farm. • He remembers riding a tricycle that fell apart and playing with farm animals and pets, especially cats. His favorite was Little Bit, a yellow-striped kitten his aunt gave him. • These days, Greene, 66, still likes cats. There are six at the MacDonald Training Center in Plant City, where Greene spends his weekdays. • One named Magpie likes him, too. "She's soft as a drift in the snow," said Greene, who noted that he once saw snow on a trip to Michigan to visit an aunt. • Greene is mentally disabled and lives in an apartment near the center with two friends and a staffer.

He has been coming to the center for 32 years. There, people with developmental delays work on job and life skills to make them as independent as possible.

Greene used to earn money at the center working with plants in a nursery and folding calendars, which supplemented his Social Security checks that cover his housing, food and other necessities.

Sometimes he would take his girlfriend out for lunch.

But during the past year, his eyesight has gotten worse. Greene has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that often leads to blindness. He can't see out of his right eye, and sight in his left eye is growing fuzzier. He uses a walker to get around.

These days he goes to the center to socialize and relax.

He's semiretired," said Nancy Collins, a coach from the center who helps him live on his own.

"I ain't semiretired," he countered, adamantly yet good-naturedly.

Collins is looking for work he can still do, she said. The horticulture business at the center closed, and Greene can no longer fold the calendars neatly.

So Greene talks to his friends about current events.

He likes to watch Animal Cops, a reality TV series showing animals as they are taken from people who treat them poorly.

"It makes me mad," he said of the abuse. "I wish they'd quit it."

He has plenty of stories, too.

He tells anyone who will listen that his uncle had a cow named Dinah.

He and a friend once saved a turtle on the side of the road.

And everyone at the center knows Greene's story about his uncle, who was in a Moose lodge and dropped his gun, which shot a hole in a commode.

This makes him laugh.

Fifty years ago, people like Greene languished at home or were institutionalized. Mothers were told to tell relatives their baby had died.

"You can still see the effects on some of the older individuals," said Rita Hattab, community relations coordinator for the training center.

Many aren't used to making their own choices. Staffers at the center help them live in homes and do real work.

With support, Greene chose to move out of his mother's house.

"I made my own decision," he said proudly. "I wanted to do other things."

He still visits her often and calls every day. She is 92.

While he can still see, Greene wants to go on a special holiday trip.

He has been saving about $10 a week from his disability check. He has about $100.

He wants to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando. It would be his first time. And he wants to spend the night in a hotel. Another first.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

Holiday Hopes

Holiday Hopes is a four-part series profiling people in need. Readers will be updated if wishes are granted.

The wish

For Christmas, Rodney Greene wants to go to Animal Kingdom in Orlando. He hopes to stay in a hotel and visit the park

for two days. To give, email Rita Hattab at

rhattab@macdonald

center.org or call her at (813) 870-1300, ext. 252.

Mentally disabled man losing his eyesight wants to go to Animal Kingdom 12/01/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 3:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

    Bucs

    TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.

    Says Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin, left, “Any time you’re recognized by your coaches, that respect is awesome to have.” He got a game ball in his first start, against the Jets on Nov. 12.
  2. Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

    Running

    CLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott's sporting calendar.

    Calvin Wilson of Coral Gables wins the men’s Wingding 5K race in 15 minutes, 46 seconds. He also wins the 1-mile Gobbler race in 4:27.
  3. Fennelly: For USF, it's all there for the taking, and against its bitter rival UCF

    College

    TAMPA — They're perfect. They're supposed to win. They have everything to lose. We can take everything they have.

  4. Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

    Public Safety

    VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature's Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.

  5. Flynn splits from Trump; may be cooperating with Mueller

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, notified the president's legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel's investigation, four people involved in the case told the New York Times, an indication that Flynn is …

    Michael Flynn may be cooperating with Robert Mueller.