In 1979, Carole and Joni shared an apartment together. Not as roommates, but as resident (Carole) and caregiver (Joni Kremer), as both were participants in a pilot project for Community Living, which was the beginning of the Independent Living Assistance program.
Today, the program runs a bit differently, but the mission of the program is the same – to promote independence.
Joni eventually left her role to pursue other job opportunities. From time to time she would drop by and visit Carole, but then she joined the military and lost all contact due to her travels. Joni retired in 2015 from the Post Office. “I wasn’t doing anything during my retirement,” Joni said. “It got to the point where I couldn’t sit around anymore and I wanted to find something with a purpose and meaning.”
And so her job hunt began. She noticed there were openings at Community Living and decided to apply for the Independent Living Assistance Instructor position. “I remembered my experience back then and how much I really liked it,” Joni said. “I thought since I’m retired now, I think it would be something I can enjoy again.”
When Kat Thomas, Independent Living Assistance Coordinator, found out Joni and Carole knew one another from the past, Kat decided to pair them up again. When Kat told Carole the news about Joni returning, Carole was ready to be reunited. “It was pretty cool,” Carole said.
When Joni knocked on the door, Carole welcomed Joni in, but she had to warm up to her again. At one point, Carole showed Joni a picture of the two of them that was taken when they first met. “It shocked me,” Joni said. “I was surprised she still had it.”
Thankfully, it didn’t take long for Carole and Joni to pick up where they left off. Carole admits she makes friends easily wherever she goes. They have been able to talk about their past, like the time Joni took Carole to the drive-in movie theater to see “Alien,” and Carole laughed at all the scary parts. “I like horror films,” Carole said. “Not so much for Joni.” They both are looking forward to making new memories.
So far, Joni has been taking Carole to doctor appointments, as well as helping her with her finances. “In my retirement (from Mid Rivers Mall as a custodian), Joni is keeping me busy,” Carole said. She also keeps busy with activities at her retirement center, such as bingo and parties. She enjoys time with her cat, Rosie, and whenever she can pick up a paintbrush. Her apartment in Wentzville has many of her pieces hanging up. And, she has a tribute wall dedicated to her Indian heritage. “I’m part Shawnee and I’m very proud of that,” Carole said.
For both, the Independent Living Assistance program helps give them a purpose. For Joni, it allows her to contribute and feel needed. For Carole, it gives her the services she needs that allows her to keep her independence. “I’m a better person because of this program,” Carole said.
Top Photo: Carole (left) and Joni sit in Carole’s art room. This room features many of Carole’s paintings. Bottom photo: Carole with her cat, Rosie. Carole says Rosie is a good cat and her protector.