By Guest Blogger Jan Nowak, Communications Director, Bethesda Lutheran Communities
Home. One word, many meanings. For Ken Larson, Dick Servatius and John Zidlicky, three men with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the definition of home has changed dramatically during their path to independence. For years, Ken and Dick called the Bethesda Lutheran Communities residential facility in Watertown, Wis., “home,” while John lived with his parents until he was 35 years old.
Years later, in the mid-1980s, home changed for all three men when they became residents of a Bethesda 24-hour supervised group home in Aurora, Ill. There, the opportunity to learn new skills advanced their desire to live with greater independence in a smaller home setting. Their definition of home changed again in the early 1990s when the men moved out of the group home and into an apartment.
Then, in 2003, the opportunity of a lifetime was made available to them. Bethesda staff learned of an Illinois state government program for first-time homebuyers and helped the men apply. Supported by Bethesda for years, Ken, Dick and John seized every opportunity to learn skills that would advance their independence. They were ready for this move, and once Bethesda presented a plan to family members, the men took the bold step to purchase a house. Now 10 years later, the men have once again redefined their meaning of home. Today, Ken, 57, Dick, 65, and John, 58, are the only homeowners of the nearly 2,000 people Bethesda serves in residential settings throughout the country.
Ken, Dick and John waited a lifetime for this kind of independence and are proud to share their home with visitors and friends. They beam with pride when they invite friends for dinner and show them the photo albums that showcase the many rich chapters of their lives. Bethesda remains active in the men’s lives. Staff help them manage finances, provide transportation, plan healthy meals and coach to ensure safety. But doing the things that make a house a home – that is up to Ken, Dick and John.
Each man does his own laundry and they take turns preparing meals. They maintain a schedule for completing chores and yard duties. They take the bus to work, make their own lunches, shop at the local grocery store and budget for the things they want to buy. This is the independence Ken, Dick and John spent a lifetime preparing for. This, to them, is what home is all about.
Each man has his own room, complete with family photographs, a recliner, television and sports décor that represents their team allegiances.
Ken is the most social of the three. Quick to engage in conversation, he has a warm smile and loves to collect new recipes for a project that was designed for him to meet new people. He takes enrichment classes to gain skills that will equip him for a job in the community.
John is quiet, and in many ways, the house leader. He has a wide variety of interests that include bowling, swimming and taking piano lessons. He loves to cook and has an interest in gardening. Very organized, John is the main reason the house is always ready for visitors.
Dick is thoughtful and weighs his words carefully before speaking. The oldest of the three, he is determined to maintain his treasured independence. His goal is to not use a wheelchair. He has a strong relationship with his mother and looks forward to her weekly calls.
The men keep a robust social calendar. They are active in their community and church; attend concerts, plays and movies; and participate in a variety of recreational activities.
According to Bethesda staff, Ken, Dick and John are rock stars who love their lives. Yes, owning a house is a piece of that, but for these men, being active in the community and feeling the dignity and respect being independent offers is at the heart of what they value most. To them, that is home.
Read more and view a video about Ken, Dick and John at www.BethesdaLutheranCommunities.org/AtHome.
Jan Nowak is the communications director for Bethesda Lutheran Communities, a national provider of supports and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Established in 1904, Bethesda offers services for individuals and their families, including a variety of residential settings, supported living programs, employment assistance, retreats and outreach services.