Submitted by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services

“MDRS clients like Dennis McLauchlin are our ambassadors. They show others why we’re here and what we do,” said Jennifer Gray, Director, Office of Communication at the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Dennis is an ambassador of hope to the Laurel community by giving away his wonderful works of art. The uniquely crafted birdhouses adorn light poles and landscapes. It was a bout with West Nile virus that led Dennis to hone his woodworking skills and create gifts for his community.

“I found out I had West Nile and I started building birdhouses. I wanted the birds to have houses to eat mosquitoes to keep the West Nile virus from spreading. I’ve given away probably more than 500 of them. I just give them out to everybody and anybody that wants one,” said Dennis.

Confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for his daily needs, Dennis would be living in a nursing home if it weren’t for the MDRS Office of Special Disability Programs.

The Independent Living Waiver Program grant allows eligible participants like Dennis to stay in their home, saving Mississippi taxpayers $45,000 per year per participant.

“MDRS gives him the tools he needs to live independently. We provide home modifications, both indoor and outdoor, to ensure that he can maneuver comfortably and independently so he can live his daily life,” Jennifer said.

MDRS also provides Dennis with Personal Care Attendants who see to his daily needs. His OSDP Case Manager Anita Scott says he can work on his birdhouses and feel like he is making a difference in the lives of others because of the services provided by MDRS.

“Giving away his birdhouses gives Dennis a much-needed boost. When he can hand a birdhouse to somebody and let them know it is a gift from him really puts a smile on his face,” Anita said.

Dennis is grateful for MDRS and the opportunity to live life independently.

“It’s a blessing, there is no other word for it, because without (MDRS’) help I wouldn’t be able to do my ministry and live better for the Lord.”

If you would like to know more about the Independent Living Waiver Program, visit

If you are interested in receiving a handmade birdhouse, call Dennis McLauchlin at 601-425-0344.