One highlight of my residential management career started with a call from my boss. He told me that we had won an award, and I was to go to the banquet and accept for us. We had built a group home which was by design, wheelchair accessible. It was the first one in that county. I was pretty excited, but as usual, I was running late. I had not been to the restaurant in years and once I arrived, I quickly got to the table. We had the residents and the staff of the home present. As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed that the venue was not wheelchair accessible…there were steps everywhere. I was stunned to see the clients all there and ready to go. During the opening speeches, I whispered to a staff, “How the heck did we get into this building?”
The staff responded, “We came in through the loading dock!” I wondered what if someone had to use the rest room, which was up three steps. Somehow, no one asked to go and the evening progressed. When it was time for me to accept the award, I went up steps to the stage, again no ramp, and smiled, thanked the organization and returned to my seat. One of the residents turned to me and said, “ I am so happy for you”
His comment played in my head and still does today. How could he be so happy for me when I was so mortified that he had to enter in the back of the building?
He was so happy to have moved from Pennhurst to this great house. He had friends, food he liked, family close by, something to do which added meaning to his day. Of course his life was not perfect, but he was happy enough to be celebrating in his new home and new life. I will always push for the ultimate inclusion. This resident taught me to pause and celebrate, from someone else’s point of view, the progress we have made.
I see our Gwynedd home the same way. When this home was originally built, it was a place that served over 50 people with special needs. Now it is home to 7 residents. These residents will be moving into two barrier free homes in the community. We can celebrate Henry Lynch and his family who created that large home AND we can celebrate KenCrest who is carrying dream forward. There will always be something new to learn and try. But celebration is important too.
PS- The group home that we won an award for was my first project as a community living director. It was underway when I started. I like construction so I went to see it. It was about 75% completed. As I approached I saw my uncle standing outside smoking a cigarette. I asked him what he was doing there. He said, “ Go inside, your dad and I work for the builder.” I did go inside and did see my dad. I then proceeded to tell him that this house would be part of my responsibility and joked..if there is anything wrong with it..just remember,I know where you live. He laughed..and the house was great. My dad is and was a stickler for quality.