Postcards from St. John’s
As the warm weather starts to change and autumn begins to take hold, I have been reflecting on my summer. My girls were out of school and we had a great trip to the beach. Spending time relaxing with friends, family and loved ones is rejuvenating. At St. John’s we believe that vacations and relaxation are important experiences that everyone should get to enjoy, and people we support have the right to choose what their vacation looks like just like you and me.
Each year, we strive to have every individual we support to have the opportunity to experience a vacation of their dreams. Vacations have become industry standard for individuals of all abilities, a way of living their best life as we all hope to do. As Jodi, a program coordinator in DC points out, “the individuals we support work just as hard as we do, if not harder. Why not make sure they also get a chance to relax?” During the year, individuals dream about where they want to go, and save money to make sure they can get there. These vacations are part of the service plans developed in conjunction with the individual, St. John’s staff, and the families of those we support.
This past summer, the individuals we support traveled to many different types of places. Among those trips individuals in Tennessee visited a number of state and national parks. Individuals from Virginia visited Amish country in Pennsylvania, while individuals in DC went to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, and others went on a cruise.
Our staff cannot be thanked enough for their dedication during these vacations! Our staff know the abilities of the individuals with whom they work closely, and help ensure they engage in experiences and activities to the fullest! From helping an individual in a wheelchair physically get into and enjoy the water, to making sure individuals enjoy dances, meals, and even the occasional casino, our staff are there to make sure everyone has the experience of their dreams! It is hard work keeping up with the energy of individuals enjoying their time away. Our staff often come away physically and mentally exhausted by the end of a trip, but the smiles and enjoyment of the people they support make it all more than worthwhile!
I am constantly impressed by the dedication of our staff in making sure each person we support is able to live a full life based on what is important to them. Thank you for your support and interest in our work of advancing community support and opportunities for people of all abilities.
Julie’s Perfect Dresser
We love to help people through our supported living program pick out decorations and furniture that match their individual style and personality. Julie had a special request for her new room. She wanted an antique gold dresser. St. John’s staff was able to find an antique dresser that fit her specifications, but it wasn’t gold. With Julie’s help and a can of paint, the dresser was transformed into the dresser she had envisioned! As Kwaku, Regional Director of SJCS in Virginia said, “This was important to Julie, so it was important to us as well. The smile on her face let us know that she was happy that St. John’s went above and beyond to make her request a reality.”
Brian has worked at a Wawa in Philadelphia for a number of years, slowly adding more hours as he is able to handle them. Over time, he has become a fixture at the store and feels included in the Wawa community. Dan, a St. John’s employment specialist in Pennsylvania, has been working with Brian to help him find the right position and gain job skills necessary to be successful. This summer, Brian was devastated by his mother’s unexpected death. Unfortunately, Brian was unable to cover this unplanned expense. Wawa learned about Brian’s hardships and used their Associates in Need fund to pay for the funeral costs. Our work to help those we support find jobs where they can contribute, and are valued members of the team, can be a critical component of identifying community-based support for individuals like Brian. St. John’s is thankful for partners like Wawa for lifting up Brian in his time of need, and even more so for creating the type of work environment where individuals like Brian can be successful and valued.
Before joining our Supported Living program in Martin, Tennessee, Koby lived with his family and was finishing high school. Koby has an incredibly supportive family that wants Koby to have the best, most independent life possible, and opportunities to experience new things. Koby and his family were concerned about the transition and adjustment to a new home, two housemates, and new daytime activities. Change is difficult for everyone, but Koby faced additional challenges from living with autism. For his family, it has been difficult to have Koby in his own home, but the transition has been great for Koby. He has blossomed since moving in April! He has connected with his new community, spends time volunteering, and goes to sporting events at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He has made many new friends and is adjusting well to his new home. Koby is always happy and interested in learning new things and visiting new places. Koby’s family understood how important it is to prepare him for independent living. The foresight and selflessness of his family have created space for Koby to feel valued, connected, and independent in the community!
Charles and Earl met when they were 5 at a daycare center for working parents with children that have disabilities. Their friendship grew as Earl became protective of his new friend Charles. They remained friends through adolescence and into adulthood. They graduated from Avon Lenox program at twenty-one. During their graduation, their parents discussed the possibility of Charles and Earl living together. Recently, St. John’s Supportive Living and Day Services programs were able to make them housemates! Thanks to the support and involvement of both families, we continue to watch this friendship grow as Charles and Earl become more independent.