For the past 26 years, I have been in the education field.  I have held various positions from teacher to administrator.  When I moved to Virginia from Delaware, I began a teaching children with autism and other special needs. It proved to be the most frustrating and eventually, the most rewarding assignment. Through training and the help of many kind people, I found that my frustration was replaced by fascination for the amazing kids that I was teaching.  Kids that I once thought were oblivious to my presence were engaging with me and developing not only academic skills, but social skills. I found myself laughing with them instead of crying because of them. I actually started to like these kids, a lot!

Over the next several years, I realized that these wonderful kids needed more than what they were able to get from the public system alone. They needed skills to engage in the outside world without melting down or tantruming. Not everyone gets to see them the way God has allowed me to.  Many people see them in sensory overloaded environments and task them with things that seem intrinsic and natural to everyone else. So these great kids get labeled as bad or not able to learn. I have taught some of the most intelligent, creative and loving kids around; kids who have talents and abilities that could possibly go unseen and under-utilized if our businesses and communities are not educated and equipped to successfully engage with them let alone, employ them.

One day at church, in the middle of yet another sermon encouraging us to walk in faith, I saw the building in my mind—a comprehensive center that provides tutoring, social skills training, pre-employment skills and job coaching. It’s a place for the whole family to receive education and training in a supportive community. 


The Vision in Action:

The Hitching Post Educational Center, a non-profit organization, will share a building with The Hitching Post Artisan Gift Shop, a retail shop that leases space to artisan vendors. The leasing of space to vendors will help support the Education Center which will provide a unique opportunity for our kids and young adults. Students from elementary level to post graduation will receive tutoring, social skills training, life skills training and pre-employment training all in one integrated location. Older students can receive on-the-job support and job coaching through the retail side of the business with specially trained staff to support and equip them with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Having honed their social skills and job skills, they will be equipped for successful employment.



Today, approximately two months after resigning from the public school, our board is in place, staff lined up and fundraisers planned. We are blessed to have Tabatha Putnam join our team as Assistant Director, who has volunteered hundreds of hours to the Ed. Center. We have launched services and events from the beautiful tree house my husband, Andy built. It is equipped with Anderson windows, heat and air-conditioning. It is a great secondary location but we are in need of a main building with ample space for classrooms and a fully equipped sensory room.


The Hitching Post – Education Center


Hickory Trading Company



Patti Howel

Founder / Owner

Call: 757-613-0831

The Hitching Post Educational Center

Hickory Trading Company