SJCS Stories

Summer Newsletter 2018

Building on a Legacy of Service

2018 marks the 150th year of St. John’s Community Services. From our inception, St. John’s has been dedicated to changing lives and building strong, inclusive communities for all. Since 1868, we have been forward-thinking, engaged, and prepared to embrace change.

Our work began as St. John’s Hospital, an effort of Saint John’s Episcopal Church to care for neglected children and individuals wounded during the Civil War. Later the hospital was converted to St. John’s Orphanage and became a mainstay of the community as wars, disease, and brutal work left many children with single or no parents. Most of the 1000+ children served between 1878 and 1956 stayed just a few years, while families overcame temporary hardships. In response to changing societal needs, the orphanage closed and St. John’s Child Development Center was opened to meet new demands. The Center was well known for its innovative educational programs and became an early advocate for community inclusion programming. In 1992, the transition to St. John’s Community Services became official, and a few years later, St. John’s began providing special education services in DC public schools. During this time services were expanded to include employment, community participation, and housing, for people of all ages, and this started our shift to exclusively providing community-based services. Through the 90’s and 2000’s, St. John’s expanded programs to include Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, becoming the organization you know today.

Joining an organization with a storied history is an exciting experience. I have spent much of the past seven months meeting individuals and families we serve and other key stakeholders. Everywhere, people tell me amazing stories of their personal history with St. John’s. We are proud of the work we have accomplished, but much work remains. Looking to the future, we are embracing technologies that can assist people with disabilities to live more independently, gain new skills, and increase community engagement. We continue to advocate for equal housing and employment, and we strive to ensure community inclusion. St. John’s has expanded services and programs, supporting almost 900 people in 2017 alone, all while ensuring the same high-quality, individualized care that people have come to expect for themselves and those they love.

This year we are celebrating the hard work of those who came before us. First, we are telling the story of St. John’s and the individuals touched by our work throughout our history using social media, our main website, and through a forthcoming website dedicated to the 150th Anniversary. Additionally, we have created the 1868 Society, a unique giving circle celebrating our 150th anniversary, and our unwavering commitment to serve some of the most vulnerable people in our community while helping them live their very best life. Be sure to look for invitations to special events celebrating our 150th Anniversary this fall.

As we prepare to write the next chapters of the St. John’s story, I ask you to continue supporting our efforts, and to share your story of St. John’s through our website at www.sjcs.org/yourstories. I hope to see each of you as we celebrate this huge milestone!

Thank you for caring so much!





Alan Thornton
President and CEO

Support our next 150 Years!

Tonio’s Talks: Adrienne Wade

Each month, Antonio Myers, Communication and Marketing Assistant, interviews a different member of staff to get their St. John’s Story. For past interviews, visit our website www.sjcs.org/tonios-talks

Adrienne Wade, Program Director for our Paris Office in Tennessee, has been working for St. John’s for a little over four years. She has always loved helping people and making their life better. When she was little, a social worker made an impact on her life. It opened her eyes and encouraged her to become a social worker, so she could help others. Adrienne is excited to help individuals live their best possible life and to find tools to help themselves. At St. John’s she gets to fulfill her dreams by supporting individuals to overcome their struggles of daily living. Adrienne loves being able to give back to her community, helping to break down barriers for those we support, being an advocate, and showing the world that everyone should be treated equally and fairly. She also enjoys the unpredictability of her job. “St. John’s gives me new opportunities to be a light to others by giving me different jobs to do.”

Outside of work, Adrienne is family-oriented. “I am in love with my husband of ten years and I have two amazing children.” Her work is important to her family too. Adrienne’s daughter has become an advocate for those who need support. She actually helps her teachers work more effectively with students who have special needs. Adrienne says, “I am glad that she is growing up learning to support others. My social work is rubbing off on her!” She also likes be creative, explore Pinterest, painting, and her family enjoys fishing. She adds, “I work a lot! I try to make sure my life is balanced.”

Tom Finds His Dream Job

Tom working with flowers in the garden department of Lowes

St. John’s believes dream jobs exist for all people. We also believe that individuals of all abilities should pursue positions that fit their skills with businesses where their passions and work are valued. Tom in Delaware is one individual who found his perfect match.

Tom has always loved plants. In high school, he chose Horticultural Studies as a vocational path, and soon after graduating began working at a floral warehouse. Unfortunately, Tom was primarily cleaning and discarding boxes rather than working with plants as he had hoped. His wages had not increased in his 15 years at the warehouse, and he was not making a living wage. Slowly his hours were reduced until his position was no longer supported. It was during this difficult period that Tom first came to St. John’s, hoping his next position would be an improvement.

Laura Strmel, Program Director in Delaware, recalls being impressed immediately by Tom’s abilities to personalize conversations and recall information quickly. He remained positive despite living with disabilities and facing the elimination of the only job he had ever known. With support from St. John’s, Tom obtained a position in customer service at a pharmacy. At first, this seemed like a good match, but it wasn’t the right fit for the long term. Tom did not get discouraged. He continued his search for a job where his contributions would be valued.

Two years ago, Tom found his current position at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Wilmington. Now, he is a resident expert on hydration and plant care, and he continues to take on new responsibilities. He makes great money too! Tom’s passion for plants has been an asset to his team and workplace. HR Manager for the store, Judith Drake, recently said, “Tom is a huge part of our Lowe’s family and we are so proud of him.” According to Lowe’s inclusivity statement, “inclusion means creating a place where everyone has the opportunity to grow and succeed.” We thank Lowe’s for their commitment to inclusion and for living out their corporate values – it is evident in Tom’s success.

St. John’s in Brief

DC Embraces Technology
Dupree makes tacos using OneDerSt. John’s Community Services has always been on the leading edge of methods for serving individuals living with disabilities. DC continues that tradition by embracing technology as an element of improving lives. This spring, DC state staff members were trained in the use of technologies in the home and for use in the community. Through voice-activated smart home devices, individuals are able to take on daily tasks, communicate more effectively, and even check in with a St. John’s nurse. Sharon, an individual in a DC home uses a voice-activated device to notify St. John’s staff of items needed for her house. The individuals we serve have access to programs like “ONEder,” (Pronounced “Wonder”) which provide step-by-step instructions to assist with meal preparation and other daily chores. One individual we serve, Jackson, uses the easy to follow instructions to make tacos and pizza from scratch for his housemate and himself. With the continued support of St. John’s staff, these technologies are making living independently easier.

Community Living in Tennessee
When Community Development Services became part of the St. John’s family in 2012, we made a commitment to transition away from its large group homes to smaller arrangements of one or two individuals. St. John’s has long been an advocate for community inclusion for those we serve, and smaller homes allow for more individualized support, encourage the feeling of ownership over tasks in the house, and enable those we serve to spend more time pursuing their passions. After five plus years, the transition is complete! Excitement built as individuals began moving into their own homes, and this year, the last of our large group homes closed in Martin. Now we are reaching out to the community to learn about and consider other ways our now vacant houses might be used to change lives.

Art Options on Display
Since April, Art Options artwork has been brightening the hallways at Children’s National Hospital in DC! Nearly 100 works are on display on the first and third floors of the main hospital building. Being featured at the hospital is great exposure for the artists and the program, and brightens the lives of the children receiving care.

Art Options is an arts-infused program designed to support the development of employment, social, communication and life management skills for young adults of all abilities in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. Participants engage with the arts community through classes, volunteering, and visiting exhibits and museums. These experiences contribute to an artistic exchange and enhance the artists’ career development.

DC & Home Offices are Moving!
Map of new office locationThis coming fall, DC State and our Home Offices are moving to a new location in Washington, DC – just across the National Mall from where St. John’s was founded in 1868! The new office will be located across from L’Enfant Plaza metro stop at 901 D St SW. We are excited about this historic move and we will keep you posted on our plans.