I had the good fortune of serving in Leadership Huntsville/Madison County’s Connect Class 19 with Melissa Reynolds, Executive Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. I saw and felt Melissa’s passion around her work with Merrimack Hall, and I have had the joy of seeing the teams of entertainers from Merrimack perform at a number of events around town. They never fail to put a smile on my face and fill the house will applause.
Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization located in the historic Merrimack Mill Village neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack offers arts education and social and cultural opportunities to children, teens, and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Debra and Alan Jenkins purchased Merrimack Hall in May 2006 and established the organization as a 501©(3) nonprofit. After nearly $2.5 million in renovations donated personally by the Jenkins family, Merrimack Hall opened to the public in 2007. The facility is now home to a 300-seat performance hall, 3,000 square foot dance studio, and community spaces. Merrimack Hall utilizes these spaces as a venue for socialization and activities for the individuals enrolled in their outreach programs.
Merrimack Hall is home to The Happy Headquarters. The Happy Headquarters has three distinct components:
- Happy HeARTs – A year-round after-school program of arts education that includes classes in dance, creative movement, choir, yoga, fitness, creative writing and multi-media visual arts
- Happy Days – A day program for adults 18+ that is focused on arts-related activities, music therapy and life skills
- Happy Camp – A series of half-day summer camps.
Merrimack Hall serves hundreds of children and adults with special needs diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a host of other conditions. They believe everyone deserves the right to participate in the arts regardless of their disabilities. Their Happy team can be found performing all over the city of Huntsville. Visit the Events section of their Facebook page for where you can find them next.
Merrimack Hall relies on the support of over 800 volunteers each year. Volunteer coaches work with the students in their Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) to learn music, art, and dance. More importantly, they serve as mentors and friends to their partners with special needs. In each program component of JSAP, they encourage their volunteers to interact with students in a meaningful way to create lasting friendships.