Reflecting on 35 Years in KenCrest Lifesharing
Stephanie Brown celebrates 35 years in KenCrest Lifesharing by reflecting on her time starting as a DSP to Senior Referral Manager.
By Sydney Kerelo
“I can still remember when I first started at KenCrest,” reminisces Stephanie Brown, the Senior Referral Manager for Lifesharing. “35 years is a long time to be in the human services field.”
Fresh out of college, with no real-life experience, Stephanie Brown applied to work at River Crest—the Agency’s first residential property, and the ‘Crest’ in KenCrest, which was an Intermediate Care Facility at the time before it was bought out and recreated into a Golf Club—as a Direct Support Professional. And she loved it.
From the first moment she stepped onto River Crest’s campus, she knew this was what she was meant to do. About three months in, Brown was promoted to Assistant Manager and later to Program Manager of one of the homes supporting people with challenging behaviors. While the work was hard, she loved it. For three years, she worked at RiverCrest until Brown and her family moved to Virginia. A few years later, she returned to Pennsylvania, and it turned into an opportunity to reconnect with her former employer, KenCrest.
“I had just started a family, so I needed a job that offered day shifts,” says Brown. “So I applied to work at KenCrest in the Robinson Street day program, where I worked for about a year, and then I saw a flyer for a Lifesharing Coordinator.”
“I instantly knew I could do more than what I was doing,” she adds. “And I loved the concept of Lifesharing. So I applied, and 35 years later, here I am!”
KenCrest began offering Lifesharing in 1985 as an alternative residential option for adults with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Since its inception, the program has brought together more than 140 people with disabilities and their Lifesharing providers in Pennsylvania. Some matches have been together for most of their lives, like Hakeem Horton, who was given a second chance at a family at just six years old, or Sandy, who entered a Lifesharing partnership with her sister Lara after their mother passed away.
Others have connected through different IDD programs, churches, or even by happenstance in the life-sharing matching process, like Beth Ann and Adrienne Hayman. This dynamic duo has been together for over five years and are inseparable; either dancing around the house or attending family birthday parties, they are always together.
Adrienne even said that if she shows up to a family gathering without Beth Ann, they get upset, and the first thing they say is, ‘Where is Beth Ann?’
“These stories are why I have stayed in Lifesharing so long,” Brown says. “I’ve seen the most changes in people we support in Lifesharing because they are living their best lives. It’s no accident that Lifesharing has consistently maintained the greatest individual life satisfaction from any other residential service area (per IM4Q). It’s because they have the same people in their lives; it’s the same family day in and day out, and consistency is how you build relationships.”
As the Sr. Referral Manager for Lifesharing, Brown’s job matches individuals looking to join Lifesharing with a family. She will initially vet the families interested in Lifesharing to ensure they are capable and prepared to become a Lifesharing family. Then, she will conduct a home study to ensure their home meets health and safety standards and determine the kind of person who will fit in well with their family.
Then, on the flip side, Brown works with people with disabilities who are interested in joining a Lifesharing family. She receives referrals from local county offices or Supports Coordinators, and then she meets with that individual to find out what they want in a family, what they want to do with their lives, and what’s important to them.
“And the beauty is when we find a match that meets the wants and needs of both the family and the individual,” says Brown. “It’s incredible. Anything that you can experience in your life, people can experience in Lifesharing; they are finally living their best lives.”
Have you thought about becoming a Lifesharing family or partner? Click the link below to learn how!