Meet Two of KenCrest’s PA Lifesharing Families
Claudette Boyer and Goldie Smith are two of the many KenCrest’s Lifesharing families creating a home for their partners.
By Sydney Kerelo
October is chock-full of special events like Halloween, Breast Cancer Awareness, National Disability Employment Awareness, and Lifesharing Awareness Month.
But, this October, KenCrest is focusing on Lifesharing.
Lifesharing Awareness Month is about opening one’s home to a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities and opening one’s heart.
Since 1985, KenCrest’s Lifesharing program has brought together more than 140 families in Pennsylvania. Included in those families are Claudette Boyer and Goldie Smith, who have not only taken numerous people with disabilities into their homes but have cared for them and treated them as one of their own.
Meet Goldie Smith
In 1980, Goldie Smith joined KenCrest after she took early retirement from Pennhurst—an institution that officially shuttered its doors in 1987.
“When I had to take an early retirement, I looked into the Lifesharing program with KenCrest,” says Smith. “And I got one of the girls I knew that lived at Pennhurst, Virginia.”
After submitting her application to become a Lifesharing provider and completing the background check, clearances, and required training, Smith completed a trial run with Virginia. At KenCrest, to become a Lifesharing provider, each person must not only be qualified, but they need to have a sustainable income, be in good health and provide multiple references. Smith and Virginia were reintroduced to each other and spent a couple of days together to see if their personalities meshed and if they would both be a good fit for each other, and they were.
According to Smith, when Pennhurst closed, Virginia went to live in a community home where she wasn’t getting as much attention as she needed. So, when KenCrest called Smith, asking her if she’d want to take Virginia, she jumped at the chance.
Shortly after Virginia moved in, Goldie received another call asking about another possible Lifesharing partner, Stella May, who was also a Pennhurst client. Smith said yes, and she moved right in.
The three women lived together for a few years before Virginia was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, Smith’s daughter Jean decided to move back home to be with her and help take care of her. Jean worked in one of the community living homes at KenCrest at the time while helping her mother with Lifesharing simultaneously.
After a couple of years, Virginia and Stella May passed, leaving Smith and her daughter with an empty home. Both mother and daughter were devastated over the ladies’ passings and wanted to continue doing Lifesharing.
Goldie Smith and her daughter Jean now have two new women living with them, Marie and Sally.
“I’ve had Marie for about three years,” says Smith. “And then Sally came several months ago.”
While Sally and Marie don’t always see eye-to-eye, they’ve quickly learned to get along and love their home. Sally and Marie are close with their siblings and often go to dinners, the movies, and family gatherings with them. Their families have become a part of Smiths and vice versa. The families even gift each other Christmas presents each year.
“When it comes to Lifesharing, you have to have a lot of patience,” says Smith. “It takes a long time to get to know them and them to know you. I’m still finding out about things them both.”
Meet Claudette Boyer
For 25-30 years, Claudette Boyer supervised a group home, so when the time arose for her to be able to do Lifesharing, she jumped at the opportunity.
“When I relocated back [to Pennsylvania] from Colorado and met my now husband, I told him that Lifesharing was something I wanted to do. I’m a nurse and have worked with people with disabilities; it’s always been in my heart and something I wanted to do.”
Boyer’s first Lifesharing partner, Titi, needed emergency respite. She was in a Lifesharing home that wasn’t meeting her needs; they didn’t have the time to care for her any longer. She lived with them for a couple of years before needing to be relocated, so Boyer took her in, only expecting her to stay a couple of days. Well, that turned into forever.
“After Titi left our home, I got a phone call from her Champion asking if we would take her,” says Boyer. “I said absolutely; my husband said yes, and we took her in. She was a little put out at first; imagine how she must have felt being ripped away from her home because she didn’t understand what was happening. But she immediately connected with my husband, she’d call him big brother, and he’d call her little sister. It was so sweet.”
Sadly, Titi passed away from cancer a few years later, and Boyer and her husband ensured that she had the best life she could while she was still around. She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her Lifesharing family, in her own home.
Since Titi’s passing, the Boyer’s accepted a new Lifesharing partner into their home, David, and they dote on him just the same.
“You just feel like you have someone that’s going to fit into your life and vice versa,” says Boyer. “As much as they need to fit into your life, you need to fit into theirs. We try to cater to them and determine their wants and needs.”