Last month, I was texted a video from an NER colleague. The video shows 3 people we support and an NER staff member in the driveway of their home dancing to the song "YMCA" while animated fireworks are bursting on screen, along with the words "Happy 4th of July." I got goosebumps.
I had been spending quite a bit of time thinking about pandemic preparedness and social-distancing and infection rates, etc., when along came a video that was just pure joy - and it was exactly what I needed.
To create moments of joy during a pandemic is a beautiful thing, and NER staff and the people we support are making this happen every day. The Person-Centered article below describes many more of these joyful moments during trying times. More goosebumps await!
NER staff have taught me so much during my time as Interim Executive Director. My lesson from this past month is a lesson I gladly share with all of you:
Tiffany is a long-timer with Northeast Residence! After attending Extended Day and Respite in her younger years, in 2001 she moved into a long-term site on Ontario in Little Canada. Two of her housemates, Robb and Erin, moved in with her at the same time. When that house was sold, Tiffany and housemates moved into their current home on Norway Pine Drive in White Bear Township, and her 3rd housemate, Brock, also joined them.
Tiffany loves her housemates! She has electronic photo frames at Norway and at her parents’ home, and she enjoys paging through the photos of her housemates and pointing out who’s who when she’s away from them. Tiffany has two sisters, several nieces and nephews, and a beloved grandmother. Whenever she’s home with her parents, she loves to see them. And they love to see her.
Anyone visiting Tiffany in her room would know her interests at a glance. Tiffany loves fireworks, kittens, pillows and soft things, clocks and trains - especially Thomas the Tank Engine - as well as everything Disney - especially the movies and princesses Ariel, Bell, and Jasmine. Tiffany enjoys artwork, stickers, books, and backpacks. Her backpack is often filled to overflowing with all her favorite things. She is stealthy about loading her backpack. And when household items are missing, it’s a good bet she might have packed it! Tiffany also loves to use Snap Chat when she’s with her mom and family.
In nice weather, Tiffany might be on the deck off the kitchen enjoying the backyard and having a snack or a meal. The front porch at Norway has a glider that’s a favorite spot to sit with staff and watch cars and families strolling by. Tiffany is friendly and smiley and has a great sense of humor! When she’s happy and content, she meows like a kitty and makes kissing noises to show her love.
Tiffany has attended PAI Parkway for many years. She is well-known by staff and peers throughout the building. PAI has been an important part of her daily routine, and she misses it when it’s not been session. Each of the connections in Tiffany’s life work together as her extended family, and she is truly loved by all.
In March, all of our day-to-day expectations and plans changed worldwide. We were faced with challenges, and, let’s face it: fear of the unknown. Now, months later, we are still faced with challenges, but have been given the task of figuring out how to move forward. As I participated in a DHS virtual meeting, the speaker said, “Everyone is experiencing trauma at this time in some shape or form, but we do not want it to take control of our lives.” What we have found is that the people we support and the employees who work at Northeast Residence have met this challenge head on.
We had to look at keeping the balance of what is important to and for the people we support in these unique times. Everyone dug a little deeper into being creative, so the days are filled with activities that bring joy. I’d like to share with all of you what many of the houses have been up to:
Duluth home – Playing games, helping staff water flowers, going on walks, and catching an extra nap or two...
Bailey home – The people living in the home have started a garden and play softball or volleyball in the backyard. They also enjoy sitting out front coloring with chalk. The upcoming plan is to start canvas painting, so that they have new artwork on their walls. When it is not too hot, walks and van rides are one of the favorite choices, as the ladies tell the staff which way to turn next, keeping it adventurous.
Edgewater home – Going on walks around the community is one of the areas people enjoy getting out at Edgewater. They also enjoy making craft items, and one person has been looming winter hats and completing online classes provided by her DT&H.
Brenner home – The people living at Brenner have been going for walks not only in their community, but have traveled to other cities to enjoy a walk with a new view. Music is constantly playing in the background at the house due to everyone liking it. One person enjoys spending their day in the pool, soaking up the sunshine when they have the chance to do so. I really like the statement that most of the time, everyone has been doing a lot of talking to each other. Conversation is a good thing.
Arcade home – Road construction has been going on in front of this home, and we are happy to report that all of the people living at Arcade thoroughly enjoy watching the construction workers, whether it be sitting outside or from the window. One of the guys has a yellow construction hat that he will wear while sitting outside watching the people work. Wii games are another simple pleasure for some, while others enjoy puzzles, coloring or creating artwork, watching videos, and talking to family members.
33rd Avenue home – While adjusting to their new daily routine, the people at 33rd Avenue have increased their participation in craft time. They also participate in chores as much as they are able to. Going on van rides while picking up take-out for dinner is always a nice way to end the day. On Saturdays, the ladies often have picnics in the backyard. Some of the people enjoy having FaceTime with their dad. Another enjoys walks with her brother. And another just started video conferencing with peers at her day program.
Cty Road F home – The folks at Cty F have been busy choosing and cooking healthy recipes, learning new dances, reading chapter books, cleaning out closets while organizing, and finger painting. Outside activities include putting bubbles in the swimming pool, having fires in the pit, playing with water balloons, and weeding their garden. The plan is to start scrap-booking soon.
B2 home – One of the favorite things to do at this house is to go on van rides, sometimes going through a drive-through for food OR getting the van washed, which the guys especially like to do. As Danielle said, “Our van could not be any cleaner.” Recently, a trip to the MN Zoo took place when they offered the drive-through called the “Beastly Boulevard." One of the guys enjoys swinging daily, and others enjoy going for walks at the local park.
Rollingview home – The people at Rollingview also enjoy van rides, walking in safe places around the neighborhood, and playing games. They have also been baking, playing piano, arts and crafts (which includes coloring), and one person enjoys the daily virtual conferencing with her day program.
Currie home – Lots of craft time has been happening at the Currie home. They are fortunate to have their very own DJ living at the home doing little music sessions while another dances. The DJ has also been playing guitar for his housemates, which all enjoy.
9th Avenue home – The individuals at 9th Avenue have been enjoying the nice days getting out more in the community, going for walks. They also enjoy driving around, picking up food, and going to a park to eat.
36th Street home – Getting in the van and picking up coffee is one thing the ladies at 36th Street enjoy doing. They have also been helping redecorate their home, since the living room walls were painted just before the pandemic took place. Participating in crafts and watching movies is another favorite pastime.
Though all the homes haven’t been mentioned, you will notice many others in pictures throughout this newsletter. Birthday parties were a big theme in July, and of course July 4th is always fun for many. We will continue to share what’s been going on in future newsletters.
I want to thank all employees, families, friends, and, of course, the people we support for doing everything possible to keep every day enjoyable and of course, person-centered.
One could almost say that Ja’Lisa “grew into adulthood” with Northeast Residence. Her mother had already been working at the Brenner home when Ja’Lisa became interested in working at the site also. She started working at the Brenner site in 2004 when she was 16. Due to her age, she was not able to pass medications or drive the company van for the next couple of years; however, she provided all other direct support services that were needed. Ja’Lisa continued to work at the Brenner site all through high school and college.
In 2010, Ja’Lisa left NER and went to Mexico, where she lived and taught English for the next six years. She and her daughter, Elaina, came back to Minnesota in 2016, where Ja’Lisa continued to teach. Ja’Lisa found that teaching did not allow her the opportunity to spend as much time with her daughter as she liked. In 2018, she came back to NER and started working at the B2 site, where there was an opening. While at B2, she did some cross-training at the Brenner site and took the Brenner Live-In position in the summer of 2018. She notes that being the Live-In has helped develop deeper relationships and trust with the people who live at the home and their families. (Two of the people that Ja’Lisa started working with in 2004 are still living in the home.)
Ja’Lisa became the Direct Lead Staff in the fall of 2019, while continuing to be the Live-In. She says a favorite part of being the Lead Staff is that she gets to do everything the Direct Support Staff are able to do, but she also gets to be involved with more “behind the scenes” activities. Being the Lead Staff allows her to take the initiative to ensure the details behind the scenes are taken care of to help make direct-support shifts run smoothly.
In February, Ja’Lisa introduced an addition to the home. Her daughter received a golden retriever, named Beau, for her birthday. Beau moved in, with the blessings of the people living in the home and their family members. Beau is well loved by all and spends time with everyone in the home.
In her spare time, Ja’Lisa likes to travel. She is an avid organizer, and during her free time, she likes to organize anything and everything.
Along with Elaina, Beau, and the people who reside at the Brenner home, Ja’Lisa shares her life with Dan, a very special person to her. Dan recently proposed. Ja’Lisa said “yes,” and they are looking forward to the next chapter in their lives that they will be creating together. Please join me in congratulating Ja’Lisa on her engagement!