Archive for Residential Services

Meet Don

Plans don’t always work out the way you originally think; sometimes the detour (so to speak) works out far better than the original plan. For Don, resident in Community Living’s Residential program, there were some detours, but the most important thing is now he’s happy as well as his family.

When David Parr, Don’s brother, was introduced to Leann Clement, Director of Residential Services, “Leann told me all about the process,” David said. “She’s responsible for helping me get in touch with a case manager, who then helped me apply for funding and was able to walk me through the steps to get Don into a supported home. None of this happens overnight.”

Originally, the plan was to have Don live with family forever, but things out of the family’s control happened, and the process of getting Don into a better living situation began. “I received a lot of information from the case manager and Leann, but it all takes time and I didn’t have the time,” David said. “I needed to get Don out of an unsafe situation, so I got him placed with another organization. It was always our intention to get him into Community Living; it was just a process to get there.”

In a year and a half, Don moved three times to various homes in the community with various organizations. Along the way, he found a church home at First Baptist Church of Harvester. “The church has really taken him in,” David said. “They have a special needs class he attends every week and they’ve given Don the responsibility of being the door greeter.”

When David received the call from Leann about an opening for Don, there was a sense of relief. “This has been a transition, which has been better for him and for us,” David said. “He’s finally at a place we can spend our time celebrating with him, as opposed to worrying about the day-to-day responsibilities with him. We are at the point where his quality of life is better than ever.”

On April 1, the family moved Don into one of Community Living’s supported living homes in the community. It was also Don’s birthday. “It was no April Fool’s joke,” Don said. Both Don and David are happy about the new living arrangements. “We’ve finally come to a place where everything has come together,” David said. “It’s been a long process and we’re learning as we go, and we’ve learned there are so many opportunities for Don. We’ve finally landed where we feel he is home.”

The phrase, “Things happen for a reason,” keeps coming to David’s mind when talking about his brother’s transition. One of Don’s concerns about moving was his church. “He was worried he would be too far to attend,” David said. “His new home is five minutes away from his church. Everything just keeps coming into place.”

David realizes this transition for his brother took a village. “I want it to be known that it took a lot of people who worked hard to get Don to where he is now,” David said. “It’s very gratifying.”

In just a few weeks, Don already likes everything about his new home. “I like my roommates … and the staff,” Don said.

Don, a sports enthusiast, has already gotten his roommates excited about Cardinals baseball. “Each individual brings something different to the house,” Lenora Dillon, Residential Lead Staff, said. “While Don will never replace who we lost, he brings his own personality to our home. He has his own interests, which is helping to get the other guys involved and it’s creating bonding moments.”

If there is one thing about Don to know, he brings out the best in people. “I don’t care who they are, people that normally will not do things, Don will get them to do it,” David said. “He’s good at that and that’s a blessing.”

Top photo: Don looks through his baseball card collection. He says he has about 73,000 cards. Below photo: Don, middle, with two of his brothers, Jerry, left, and David.

Meet Chris

As parents, you want what is best for your child(ren). Walter Sitzwohl and his late wife Tomme, have done just that for Jennifer and Andrea, Walter’s daughters, and Chris and Jonathan, Tomme’s sons.

Walter and Tomme met in 1990, and that’s when Walter met 16-year-old Chris. “My daughters and I had an instant bond with Chris,” Walter said. “Although I didn’t adopt Chris, he’s been my son since we met. He accepted me as his dad.”

Jennifer, Andrea and Jonathan have all moved out on their own. And, recently Chris moved into an O’Fallon home that is operated by Community Living. The transition was much harder on Walter than Chris, but he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “I have my good days and I have my bad days naturally,” Walter said. “But, I’m so grateful that Chris loves his new home. He’s at a place he feels comfortable.”

Walter and Tomme made sure Chris would be well taken care of if anything would happen to either one of them. Before she passed away, Tomme said to Walter, “Chris is going to be okay.” “All the planning we did together helped her relax her last few days and it helped me, too, knowing that she knew,” Walter said.

Chris has been a participant in the Support Services for Adults program since his graduation from Boonslick State School. “It was when the center was located off Cave Springs and it had only three rooms,” Walter said. The family also utilized the Respite Care Home.

It wasn’t until a close friend of Walter’s died of a heart attack, that Walter started thinking about Chris’ future living arrangements. “I began thinking, ‘what if I’m upstairs putting clothes away and something happens to me?,’” Walter said. “Chris would be all alone. He can’t get water, he doesn’t know how to prepare food, he wouldn’t know how to make a phone call, so all this thinking made me want to find a place Chris could live in case anything happened to me.”

He also wanted a place that he knew Chris would be well taken care of and treated with respect. “Tomme and I have always appreciated how well Community Living’s staff works to make sure the clients have a full life,” Walter said. “So, it wasn’t a hard decision to go with Community Living’s Residential program for Chris.”

As far as moving into the new house, Chris recognized staff that worked with him when he first started at the center. “It was a mini-reunion for Chris to see staff he hadn’t seen in a while,” Walter said. Today, Chris attends Clever Center, one of the four Support Services for Adults centers, located in Dardenne Prairie, which is closer to his home. The transition was easy for Chris, as his roommate, Eric, who Chris has bonded with, also attends Clever Center.

For Walter, he’s happy Chris is on his own, but he does get lonely. “My job has been to take care of Chris so it’s hard to give that up,” Walter said. “People try to tell me that now I have time for me, but I try to explain to them that’s not why I did this. I didn’t move Chris out of the house so I can go do what I want to do, I did it for Chris’ safety. I did it for Chris’ well-being, not mine.”

Community Support

With all the change and transition, Walter and Chris continue a family tradition. It was a tradition that started four and a half years ago. On Thursdays, Walter picks Chris up from Clever Center and takes him out to dinner at The Three Families Restaurant, located on Mexico Road in St. Peters.

Owners, Wayne and Sara Sanders, met Walter soon after they opened in October 2012. “Walter told me about his son and how he needs his food blended,” Wayne said. “I told Walter we have a machine in the back that can turn rock into dust. A few hours later, Walter brought Chris in for dinner.”

It took Michael Hollander, Executive Chef, a few tries to get the consistency right, but now it has been perfected. “It’s great that we can do this for Chris,” Michael said. “We always try to find ways to make it work.” There are steps taken when blending either spaghetti and meatballs or pasta con broccoli, two of Chris’ favorite meals. Michael even knows how to make the creme brulee the way Chris likes it.

Walter considers the restaurant a haven for Chris and himself. “It’s a familiar place for both of us,” Walter said. “Plus, the staff bends over backwards to take care of us. They know what Chris likes and they make it just for him.”

For a night cap and to spend a little more time with his son before taking him home, Walter takes Chris to Starbucks on the corner of Mexico Road and Mid Rivers Mall Drive. “Starbucks has also been very accommodating to Chris’ needs,” Walter said. “They make the drink at a lower temperature so Chris can drink it. To me, it’s great knowing there are places in the community that do embrace the challenge of people with disabilities that need things made differently. It makes Chris feel accepted and a part of the community experience.”

Top photo: Walter pours more coffee into Chris’ cup at Starbucks. Above right photo: Chris and Walter sit at their favorite table at The Three Families Restaurant. “They are good people and have such a good heart,” Sara said.

Meet Carole and Joni

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.

Meet Ryan

August is notorious for back-to-school time. Just as the elementary and middle and high school students head back, so do college students. One college student, Ryan, an Independent Living Assistance client, will start his fifth semester at St. Charles Community College.

Instead of attending classes at the college, Ryan takes online courses. He is able to get his general education classes out of the way as he figures out want he wants to study. “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do,” Ryan said. “The online classes are nice because I get to take a lot of different classes.”

For this semester, he is enrolled in 3D Animation and World Religions. “I like video games, so I thought the 3D Animation class may be something worth looking into,” Ryan said. He thinks the World Religions class will be very interesting. “Me being a Christian, I would like to see what other religions are all about,” he said. “I’m looking forward to finding out the perspective of different religions and not be so ignorant about other religions.”

Although Ryan had to take some time off school after high school and during his move, he knew it was something he wanted to try. “As a person with a disability, I struggled with my decision to further my education,” Ryan said. “But, I realized there’s no hurt in trying. No one should be afraid to get outside their comfort zone.”

For the most part, Ryan enjoys school. “There are some subjects that are not my favorite, but for the most part, I’m a good student,” Ryan said. “I have a lot of time on my hands, so why not go to school? I might as well further my education and eventually use it to get a career.”

That’s why he’s most excited about his 3D Animation course. “I think it’s going to be really fun,” Ryan said. “It’s been something that’s been on my mind for years now. I want to head into the video game industry in some capacity, so taking the 3D Animation class will help me decide if I want to do animation for video games. Nowadays, video games have evolved so much that’s there’s so many job openings for different aspects. This class will help me decide what best suites me and my skill set.”

His independence and way of thinking hasn’t always been so positive. He credits his faith, case manager at the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County and Community Living for helping him in his time of need. He was staying with a friend while his case manager was helping him find a place to live. When following up on one of the leads, it was actually next door to his friend’s house, which benefited Ryan as he didn’t have to worry about transportation. “It was very much a God thing,” Ryan said. The house is fully adaptable with ramps and a walk-in shower. “It’s a very nice house,” he said. “I got really blessed with that whole thing.”

With the help of Kene Philips, Community Living’s Independent Living Assistance Instructor, Ryan makes goals that will help maintain his independence in his home and community. “Community Living really helped me with finances,” Ryan said. “It’s not so hard now, but before I was worried about how I was going to deal with it when I’ve never done it before. The staff made sure I knew what I was doing and helped me keep track of my money by helping me create a budget.”

His current goals are exploring the community, making doctor’s appointments, maintaining benefits and pursuing an education. He has not let his disability hold him back. “Life is too short to be down all the time,” Ryan said. “I’m just making the best of what I have. That’s what my advice is to everyone, whether you have a disability or not – just make the best of life.”

Residential Happenings

Moving Day is … feel free to fill in your own word here! Did anyone say “easy?”

For Bertha, Julie, Rose and Mary, who all receive Residential Services, their move from their home on Four Winds in St. Peters to their new home on San Carlos in St. Charles was just that – easy. “They were all really excited about the new house,” Allyson Hedemann, Support Staff, said. “It made the transition much easier.”

Before the move, the women lived in two townhouses with a common area, but now they have a house, which has been updated based on their needs. “Dan (Dozier, landlord) heard their stories and made the house to fit the needs of the ladies,” Brittney Moss, Residential Coordinator, said. Some of these updates include widening the hallway and doorways, a safety wall around the stairs, a zero-entry bathroom and laminate flooring throughout the home. “It’s a huge upgrade and it’s great,” Brittney said.

Each resident has a favorite room of the house – Rose said she likes the bathroom because it’s easier to take a shower; Bertha said she likes the back living room because there’s more light for her to paint; Mary likes the front living room because that is where her comfy chair is; and Julie said she likes her bedroom because it’s the biggest. “As long as it works for them, it’s great for me,” Dan Dozier, landlord, said.

All four roommates agree the house offers more space and they are getting to know each other better because now they can have meals together at the kitchen table. “Julie is not calling me as much since she’s moved in,” Georgia Conlon, Julie’s sister and guardian, said. “She’s happy. It’s very comforting to me.”

Georgia is also happy to know the landlord is a friend of Community Living. But, she’s not the only one. Melinda Brink grew up in the house that Bertha, Julie, Rose and Mary now call home. She is also a family friend of the Doziers. “My (late) parents would be thrilled that the home went to help people in the community,” Melinda said. “I’m so happy that the Doziers are involved.”

It’s strange to think this may not have even happened. There was a contract on the house, but it fell through. When this happened, Dan said he would like to purchase the house and turn it into an accessible home for individuals supported by Community Living’s Residential Services. He closed on the house February 5 and moving day was April 27.

On June 25, the women had an open house. It was at this open house the ladies met Melinda. “I thought coming back would be bittersweet, but knowing the ladies love the house as much as I did, it’s such a happy feeling,” Melinda said.

PaulIn other news … A bathroom renovation happened in another home, thanks to the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County, owner of the residence. With this renovation, both bathrooms upstairs are fully accessible and have zero entry.

“The new bathroom is really nice,” Paul, resident of the home, said. “I’m happy it’s finished.”

Although the bathroom is for all the residents of the home, Paul’s bedroom is closest to the bathroom. “I no longer have to walk across the house to use the other bathroom,” Paul said with a smile.

Click here to view more photos from the Open House.

A Sapphire Anniversary

On March 15, Janet, a resident at one of Community Living’s supported living homes, was recognized for 45 years of services at BCI. “We were thrilled and so proud of her,” Nancy Struckman, Janet’s sister, said.

They had a party to recognize Janet and she received an award and goodies, such as gift cards to get her hair and nails done. BCI also has made March 15 a day for Janet. “BCI has been a wonderful place for Janet,” Nancy said. “It has given her a purpose and a sense of community.”

Janet was speechless when she was presented her award. “Janet is the only one who has reached this milestone,” Angelia Madlin, Employment Support Specialist at BCI, said. “She’s a dedicated employee, flexible, always laughing or has a smile on her face – just a nice lady. BCI appreciates her service.”

Community Living’s Super Hero

On October 15, 2015, Leanna Capstick, Medical Support Staff at one of the residential homes in St. Peters, received recognition at the Direct Support Professionals Awards Ceremony held at the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County.

The format of the ceremony changed this year — only one Direct Support Professional from each representing agency received the Outstanding Service Award. There were 10 award recipients.

For one night they were honored, but every day they are Super Heroes to so many.

Meet Leanna

Tell Leanna she won an award for her job and she will be quick to point out she does not consider what she does a job. “This is our home,” Leanna said. “We are a family.”

Since 2006, Leanna has been a valuable asset to Community Living. She started her career at the Lonning Center, one of the four Support Services for Adults locations, and then transferred to Residential Services where she has worked with the same four gentleman for eight years.

She considers them all a part of her family. When Jeremy’s parents asked Leanna and Michelle Timmerman, coworker of Leanna’s, to walk with him on his high school graduation, there was no hesitation. “His parents asked and there was no second thought,” Leanna said. “I was doing it.”

Jeremy is one of the residents Leanna supports and he has a very severe seizure disorder that was not able to be controlled very effectively, even with medications. Leanna had heard about a device called a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) that when implanted, could greatly reduce the number and severity of seizures. Leanna did the research and she was able to provide his parents with information to make an informed decision. “Leanna’s persistence and research into improving the quality of life for Jeremy led his family to have a strong and trusting relationship with Leanna,” Barb Griffith, President and CEO of Community Living, Inc., said.

Once his parent agreed to have the VNS implanted, Leanna continued the process by locating a surgeon, following up with the company that would be providing the VNS, working with the insurance companies and arranging for staff to receive training once the VNS was implanted. She was there through the surgery and the extensive recovery period.

“The positive changes for Jeremy are remarkable,” Barb said. “The family calls Leanna their son’s guardian angel, a term not in any Direct Support Professional’s job description. It is something inherent in some people, like Leanna, that drive them to go way above and beyond doing a ‘good’ job and into that Super Hero status.”

Before working for Community Living, Leanna describes herself as being selfish. When she told her family she got a job working with people with disabilities, they could not believe her. But, talking to her today, she’s a changed person. “I don’t expect anything in return,” Leanna said. “You do it for the love you have for the individuals. I know I’m there to make their lives better. But, they have done more to change my life than I’ve done to change theirs. I’m a mom because of them.”

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Meet Josh

Hard work … Dedication … Passion …

When you hear these words, a person may pop to mind. Well, get ready to meet Josh. Even if you don’t know Josh, after reading his story, you may just think of him the next time you hear one of the words above.

Josh is in Community Living’s Independent Living Assistance program and is a member of Adult Recreation Services. He is also involved with Special Olympics, and on July 25, 2015, he got the trip of a lifetime. He traveled to Los Angeles to compete in the 2015 World Games for softball.

Josh plays softball on the Fort Zumwalt Special Olympics team. He plays as a catcher and in the right and left field positions. A year before the World Games, his team, along with Special Olympic softball teams from Springfield, Kansas City and Cape Girardeau were invited to a training camp in Mexico, Mo. “Camp was a lot of fun,” Josh said.

From this camp, Josh was chosen to play on the Special Olympics USA (Missouri) softball team and represent in the 2015 World Games. Four softball teams became one, five individuals from St. Louis, five from Springfield, two from Kansas City and one from Cape Girardeau. “Some of us never played with each other before, so we had practice all over Missouri to help build our team,” Josh said.

Once in L.A., the team participated in the Opening Ceremonies and Michel Phelps, the most decorated Olympian for swimming, walked with the USA (Missouri) team. “This was the best part for me — meeting different people from all over the world.”

The team was also able to attend other World Game events — tennis, softball, soccer and bocce. “It was fun rooting on other people from Missouri and the United States,” Josh said.

The World Games for softball consisted of eight games, where the team walked away with five wins and a silver medal. After losing to Canada twice, the team knew they had to beat Canada in a third game in order to advance to the gold medal game. “The game against Canada to get to the gold medal game was great,” Josh said. “We beat them 17-5 and it was awesome.”

Unfortunately, the team lost to USA (Arizona) team in the gold medal game, 22-5. “Our team had our ups and downs, but it was a good game against Arizona,” Josh said. “I’m still shocked to have this silver medal.”

It was his hard work, his dedication and his passion for softball that got him that silver medal. “I plan to keep on going until something happens that forces me to stop,” Josh said. A true athlete to the core.

Play-by-Play

Game 1: vs. Australia; 14-3 W Game 2: vs. Canada; 15-9 L Game 3: vs. Mexico; 13-5 W Game 4: vs. Bharat (India); 12-10 W
Game 5: vs. Mexico; 16-13 W Game 6: vs. Canada; 15-13 L Game 7: vs. Canada; 17-5 W Game 8: vs. Arizona; 22-5 L

To view more photos, click here.