Esther came to KenCrest when she was ten. She was living with her grandmother, who decided to put her into a community living program so she could receive proper care.
Esther, now 30 years-old, was in a community-based employment program with a one-on-one. Her staff could tell she wasn’t happy. She had a variety of ways to tell us using nonverbal communication. Years ago, we would have said she was not job-ready. She took off her clothes in public; she yelled loudly, she retreated from contact with people she did not know. By way of diagnosis, we would say she had autism.
On the other hand, our staff could see what she really enjoyed doing. She loves riding in the car, and doing quick activities. She has a sense of helping, and a real connection to people that she likes. She solicits a kiss on the cheek from people close to her. While she understands English, she smiles when she hears her native language, a language spoken by her Service Coordinator. We have known her for twenty years.
Jennifer Hirschfeld, one of our residential managers, had a relationship with Meals on Wheels and encouraged Esther to try working for them. Now, Esther is officially a volunteer for them. She delivers twenty meals at least twice a week. She has been welcomed in every home. She has given every indication that she likes what she is doing.
We acted on our beliefs. We know Esther is gifted. We were determined to find a way to have her gifts accepted by the world. Esther is volunteering! Her gifts are being appreciated.
In a world that does not have enough affordable housing, funding for services, etc., it is easy to send someone like Esther to the bottom of the list.
At KenCrest, we do not accept the easy way. We have three parts of our mission:
Embrace possibilities: Just what might Esther do? We made a list
Mobilize resources: We built on Jenn’s contact with Meals on Wheels.
Empower dreams: Esther is volunteering.
We have great expectations and we are proven right. We empower dreams.