I remember someone asking me, “why do you do the things you do instead of relaxing”. I told her, I do this for my children and my grandchildren and the next generations to come. I want to ensure that when I leave this earth, my kids get back some of the good I gave to this world and I want to know someone will take care of my children because I took care of theirs.
I wanted to do more to help these individuals when they leave my program and are able to live on their own. I know this is a class of individuals that are constantly overlooked due to their intellectual state. People tend to write them off as being a problem versus being a contribution to our community. With the right training, love and support. I have proven that these individuals can be productive members of society. They just need the chance that not a lot of people are willing to give to them. Though there are some programs out there that help them transition into supported living housing, the support that they need is generally not there and they’re not really being looked after. This was very concerning to me because I have a brother who is disabled as a result of an accident and I just kept thinking how he constantly requires support and direction to ensure he is not being taken advantage of.
It was this concern that prompted me to open up a nonprofit Changing Lives Corp Which is designed to assist these individuals when they leave the group home setting to have some support versus no support at all. The primary goal of this organization is to have a step down program for all group homes when individuals feel like they do not want to live in the Group Home setting anymore. My program supports individuals who need to move out on their own not only mentally but physically. We are raising money to build sustainable communities for these individuals. Communities that accept them for who they are and support their needs to be on their own while providing continued support through our group home resources, to ensure they have a successful transition into independent living. I’ve been privileged with working with a few individuals personally and I have seen the growth in these individuals.
My staff and I had some tough days but we moved steadily when others gave up on them. I've witnessed grown in everyone one of them and made lasting connections. I know when they are ready to leave my Group Home, I don’t want to just let them go without any type of support, leaving them susceptible to suggestions and negative influences or in the grip of people who could take advantage of them. My goal is to continue to work with these individuals throughout their life whether it’s me or my staff or other members of the community who feel the same way I do, the mission lives on through all of us.
I believe it’s always important to put ourselves in these individual shoes, because though we may not have been born with an intellectual disability, disability could await any of us and may be peeking around the corner at any time. By a car accident, illness, a medical mishap or a stroke away from being in a similar situation these individuals are in. No one is above anyone. No one knows what their future holds and changes start today not tomorrow. It was my destiny to open this nonprofit to help individuals that are disadvantaged because it’s the right thing to do.