Counting on Harold
Harold is not sure how many years he has covered the altar cloths, changed the hymn board, closed the church, and carried the offering to the office after services. For the past years, the Good Samaritans (Emmaus residents* who volunteer to help their community) have thoroughly cleaned the Chapel each week. Five or six persons usually spend Thursday mornings dusting, vacuuming, and straightening up.
Like many, Harold highly values his contacts with people outside of Emmaus. While he has few living relatives, there are some very special people who help brighten his life. He looks forward to visits, cards, letters and gifts from his sponsors - the Married Couples Group of St. Johns UCC, Brighton Illinois. This very personal contact fills a real need and tells Harold that someone really cares.
-Words that give you a clue to how Harold is thought of by the Emmaus community and others.
- Adapted from the Emmaus Messenger, 1983
A Place for Peter
For Linda Mueller, everything regarding the birth of her son, Peter, felt just like it did when she had her little girl. Her son was born within just a few hours at the hospital. Everything was perfect.
However, as he grew up, Peter began missing milestones, especially in speech. Around age 3, Linda consulted specialists regarding Peter’s development, but found no clear diagnosis. Peter has been labeled many things during his life: Learning Impaired, Behavior Impaired, Developmentally Disabled, signs of Autism, Asperger’s. At the end of the day, Linda came to terms with the fact that, with or without a definitive diagnosis or label, Peter was simply, Peter.
Fast forward to when Peter began his adult life. It became clear that society was not designed to fit some of Peter’s characteristics. For example, Peter’s employer, Steak & Shake wanted to give him more hours since he was a great dishwasher, but being the regimented person he is, he declined. Oprah aired at 3pm and he couldn’t miss it. Peter pays close attention to time. If you say you’ll be there at 4 and don’t show until 4:02, Peter will call you late and will be upset that you are "late."
Peter was living at home, but Linda started exploring different living options that would support Peter to be successful in a more independent setting. She found the system intimidating and learned that she couldn't give up and had to continue to pursue all options. She kept getting told Peter was “high functioning” and required minimal hours.
During this time, Peter encountered a lot of trauma that affects who he is today. Tragically, Peter witnessed his father suffer a fatal heart attack. When he moved out for the first time into an apartment, there was not adequate staff support and Peter’s roommate threatened him with a knife.
The effects of these traumas caused Peter to feel angry and begin acting out. Peter was kicked out of a few apartments as a result. Linda’s background was in correctional facilities and recognized that the path her son was on was a downward spiral. People even began noticing how stressed Linda had become at work. A coworker pointed her in the direction of Emmaus.
“Emmaus saved Peter’s life.” says Linda. “We looked at Marthasville and discovered that Emmaus had been operating for years and had a wonderful reputation. I was relieved after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It felt like time was running out for me to find a safe solution for Peter.”
Living at Emmaus brought something different to the table. When something was supposed to work on paper, but in reality, did not, Emmaus made adjustments to fit Peter’s needs. One Emmaus team member in particular worked one-on-one with Peter to highlight his strengths, and really express trust and love. Peter was gaining independence and his anger subsided. At Emmaus, Peter was safe, secure and blooming.
Peter spent 12 years in Marthasville. “Then one day I received a phone call that made me sick to my stomach,” says Linda. “Emmaus started talking about transitioning away from campus [into community homes]. Every memory of being displaced from apartments, all the hurt, and all the anger, came rushing over me.”
After the realization of the announcement set in, Linda decided to take a different approach. She wanted Peter to be one of the first people off the campus. Emmaus Client Services Director Laura Davis was put in charge of the transition. She knew Peter from years before as a case worker. Linda had incredible trust in her. They came together as a group to begin discussing the process.
They found a home in Wright City and put a plan in effect. Before moving in, Peter visited the home many times. Sometimes he brought lunch with his housemates and were able to pick out paint colors for their bedrooms. On move-in day, Laura coordinated people to hookup Peter’s TV and have everything ready before the day was over.
Linda wanted to know how she could help. “I bought a kitchen table and will never forget dropping it off. The neighbor across the street came over and asked who was moving in. Not wanting to 'hide' anything, I explained about my son, Emmaus and his roommates. The neighbor started hugging me and assured me that he would be fine. She gave me information about the church she belonged to and told me she had been an aide for a special needs student at a local school. I was so overwhelmed by her reaction and kindness, that I started crying - so relieved that they would be accepted."
Peter’s neighbors attended an open house and are very welcoming to Peter and his housemates. One neighbor even dropped off Christmas cookies and visits with her grandkids.
Peter is part of his community. He was ignored in big cities, but in this rural setting, people know him. He volunteers with Meals on Wheels, attends a local church (Sunrise), chats with folks over coffee, attends EmmausLink classes for continuing education, participates in Special Olympics, goes bowling, rides at Exceptional Equestrians, reads the newspaper, plays golf, looks for different social activities and much more. He even traveled to Colorado this summer.
Linda believes his transition has been successful due to the support and care he and his housemates receive from staff.
“Peter has found a purpose. People have been trying to help him all his life, but now we found that Peter is the helper. He is a cheerleader for his housemates. It’s really working out. I keep waiting for the honeymoon period to end, but since moving in two years ago, it hasn’t. His medications have been lowered and he’s matured because of the security, safety and love he continues to experience at Emmaus. Now at 45 years old, Peter’s individuality continues to impress me.”
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