From Lifesharing to DSP, This Employee Has Done It All

Lifesharing to DSP, This Employee Has Done It All

For 34 years, Annette Hanks has helped various people with disabilities in KenCrest through Lifesharing and Supported Independent Living. 

By Sydney Kerelo

Growing up with a father as a pastor, Annette Hanks spent most of her life helping others. For the past 34 years, she’s worked at KenCrest, assisting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a Lifesharing provider and Community Connection Coach.

“We had a very open home growing up,” says Hanks. “All sorts of people would come and live with us, people with abilities or disabilities, whoever needed help. Our home was always an open door, and we just tried to meet their needs.”

According to Hanks, people would stay with their family anywhere from a few nights to a few months. Growing up in that environment is why Hanks dedicated her career to supporting people with disabilities.

In 1988, Hanks first learned about KenCrest, when she began working in a community home. Three women lived in that home, including Kathy.

Unfortunately, Kathy was a bright, lively woman with no family. So, when Hanks started working at Kathy’s home in 1988, she became that family for her.

“She would come home with me for the holidays or on weekends when I did [a] weekend shift,” says Hanks. “I remember going home from my shift one night and mentioned to my husband, who was working in the garage on the car, about letting Kathy live with us. He was immediately on board; it wasn’t something we had to think about; it was just natural to have her be with us permanently.”

From that moment on, Hanks became Kathy’s Lifesharing provider and her family. And Hanks’ family was just as accepting.

Annette and Pete surrounded by a group of college students from Gwynedd Mercy University.

A few years back, Hanks’s father was very sick, and the family went to stay with him during his last moments. At first, Hanks was hesitant to bring Kathy with them because she wanted to shield her from the pain of losing a loved one. But, in the end, Hanks brought Kathy with them, which was magical.

“I’ll never forget when we were all sitting in the room when my father passed away, and she went over to him, touched his hand, and said, ‘it’s ok daddy, you can go to heaven,'” says Hanks softly. “Saying that was hard for me at the time, so Kathy said it. And then she climbed in my lap, cried a little bit, and said, ‘I’m hungry.”

Everyone in the room smiled and giggled because Hanks’ father would be the first to say, ‘sign me up for a slice.’

Kathy lived with Hanks from 1990 to 2021, when she passed away at home surrounded by her loved ones.

Kathy is not the first or the last person Hanks has cared for throughout KenCrest. When Hanks first started at KenCrest, she worked with twin boys with Down syndrome—Desmond and James.

Cooking was essential to the twins, so Hanks helped them start their own catering company. They hosted holiday parties, church lunches, and breakfast meeting events.

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“When you find out what people’s passions are and what they love to do, then you can make it fun,” says Hanks. “It’s exciting to help them achieve those dreams.”

She worked with the twins for ten years before they moved to North Carolina, but their relationship is stronger than ever.

Today, Hanks supports Liz and Pete, two individuals who receive a certain number of service hours weekly. According to Hanks, Liz is a remarkable young lady who enjoys horseback riding and cooking. So, Hanks is helping her become more comfortable in the kitchen.

Pete, on the other hand, is served through KenCrest’s Supported Independent Living program. He receives around 19 hours of support a week, and spends most of that time either volunteering at the local food pantry or discovering new technology he can use in his home.

“I’m truly blessed to be able to work for KenCrest and to do what I love with extraordinary people,” says Hanks. “I have always loved working with folks and helping them find creative ways to continue their life’s journey.”

Interested in joining the KenCrest team as a Lifesharing provider or Community Connection Coach? Check out our open positions below!