For those of us in the office, specifically at Headquarters, we can sometimes feel removed from the work being done in the field and regional offices. We can forget how our small piece makes an impact on the larger St. John’s picture. Thalia Simpson-Clement, our Chief Operations Officer, is always good at reminding us that St. John’s is in the business of making dreams a reality for people living with disabilities. At one recent meeting, Thalia provided a few less typical St. John’s stories to help us reconnect.
Ellen was part of the St. John’s high school transition program in Virginia more than twenty years ago. She worked with Thalia during that time to find employment. Originally placed in a stockroom job, Ellen wanted more meaningful work. Over time, through the support of St. John’s, Ellen moved her way up in the Department of Defense, eventually becoming a critical component of the team at Ft. Belvoir. She loved this work and barely missed a day. Through the years she became more independent, first moving from her parents’ home to an apartment with a roommate, and finally into her own apartment. While she loved her job, her life was full of other passions as well, in which she was able to participate as a result of her regular salary. She went on vacations, cruises, had many friends, and owned pets. At one point, Ellen mentioned that she was eligible for retirement, but wanted to continue working in the job she enjoyed. Three years ago, Ellen did not arrive at work as expected. Thalia later learned that Ellen had a heart attack and had passed away. Ellen had been so impacted by the work of St. John’s that she had set money aside from her 401K as a way to give back. Ellen’s memory lives on and inspires us in the work we continue to do each day.
David serves on the St. John’s Community Services Virginia Board. While most of us were thinking about how to travel a few towns away to visit our families for the holidays, David was getting ready to travel from Washington, DC to Budapest to join his family for Christmas. The DC staff was instrumental in preparing him for layovers, customs, and unexpected events. David made it safely to Budapest and back to DC with beautiful holidays in between. His family was delighted to have him for Christmas! They thanked the DC Staff for making their holiday dreams a reality, saying that it was the smoothest travel David or the family had ever experienced.
Based on first impressions, you might be surprised that Sharron loves any type of wrestling! Sharron says, “The bloodier the better!” Last year, with the help of St. John’s staff, Sharron was able to attend a WWF show at the Verizon Center with seats close to the action. Sharron was overjoyed to see some of her favorite stars and was given special attention by the wrestlers and fans. The wrestlers referred to Sharron by name throughout the show, and she got a picture with several of them afterward. She is proud to show photos and tell stories from that evening.
I hope you are as inspired by these stories as we are. Making dreams come true is not how we usually describe our mission, but through our work at each level of the organization, people like Ellen, David, and Sharron are living fuller lives. We will be sharing more stories of success throughout the year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. John’s Community Services. You can show your support for our work of building stronger, more vibrant communities for people of all abilities with a tax-deductible contribution. Your gift helps us make dreams come true!