You could be having a bad day, and you walk in and see Rhonda (pictured above) and she just makes you feel so good. She's so happy and wants a big hug.
Rhonda is great. She loves to do puzzles, and she's got a memory like a xerox machine for names and dogs. She loves music, dancing, and sweeping. I was able to help her get into a more affordable housing situation, so she's been able to go on trips to Portland and Chelan, and buy a few beautiful things for her bedroom.
Back in Bismarck, North Dakota, my six brothers and sisters and me would ride our bikes to Hillside public swimming pool: Clyde, Larry, Gloria, Me, Pam, Keith and Vicki. Lessons in the morning, then back again for open-swim in the afternoon, sometimes from 1pm all the way to 8. We’d listen for the bells of that ice cream truck’s song, and if Mom had some extra cash, we’d run out when it rolled by.
Winter meant sledding in our neighborhood or at Hillside Park and ice fishing on Sweet Briar Lake. Catching up to 12 perch through ice over 16” thick, which Dad would fillet and pan fry that night.
I remember seeing my neighbor Linda, about a year younger and with a disability, get teased and bullied by other kids. So, I start walking those six blocks to Richolt Elementary and back with Linda.
Sundays were always church at Faith Lutheran, then my Dad’s chicken noodle soup. Every Sunday.
In high school, we had a chance to volunteer, and I chose to work with special needs kids. I got to take them swimming. I really enjoyed it. It made me feel good.
I started working in support services with Pride in North Dakota, then another company. Marjorie was a client in Bismarck who I just adored. She called me “Daughter,” and we went on trips and vacations. She passed from cancer a number of years ago. In this work, you get really close to people, and sometimes you lose them.
I moved to Washington in 2004, started as a DSP (Direct Support Professional) with VOA, then I became a Lead and then a Manager. I have about 14-23 DSPs I support, and five sites with nine clients: Quilceda, two apartments in Marysville, Green House, and an Everett place. When I walk into a site and the clients want to give me the biggest hug and biggest smile, that gives me meaning. I’m a hugger. And, you know, in this job, you enrich people’s lives. You make their dreams come true.
I was with our client Deanna at her Westover apartment in Marysville. She was listening to a song, and she just started singing. She was singing every word. I think it was Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” and I told her, “You sing beautifully.” She can be really shy, but she really does sing beautifully.
As much as VOA enriches client lives, it has also enriched my life. The people here are just wonderful.