While this past year has been one full of growth and positive change for DePaul, not many service locations have experienced a transition as dramatic as our Fishersville OPTIONS center. This day support program serving adults with developmental disabilities has undergone an all-around transformation—from the physical setting of the center, to a strengthened commitment in the OPTIONS staff, and to remarkable progress in the lives of the individuals in the program.
Around this time last year, the Fishersville program served about half as many individuals as it does today. Currently, there are 24 participants enrolled and the program is continuing to expand. New staff have been hired, more participants are set to join the program soon, and several individuals who used to attend part-time are now joining OPTIONS full-time, five days a week.
The story behind the program’s growth begins with a dedicated team of staff who have created an environment where individuals know they belong and have a voice. “We really focus on quality care and the needs of our individuals,” said Renee Graves, Day Support Coordinator in Fishersville. “Our goal is always to provide them with the kind of care we would want for our own family members.”
Every day staff members aim to go above and beyond what is required to support participants; they not only provide needed care, but also make it a point to help individuals achieve something they wanted to do that day—whether it’s going out to eat at a particular restaurant or picking out an item to buy during a shopping trip. Having the option to choose can make a world of difference; the more opportunities for personal choice the staff are able to find, the more encouraged individuals are to voice their thoughts, wants, and needs.
“Some of our individuals have gone their entire lives having other people tell them what they can and can’t do,” Renee explained. “Now they are having to learn a whole new mindset that they do have rights and they do have a choice.”
This mindset is certainly taking hold in the Fishersville program as several participants have begun advocating for themselves and speaking up more than they ever have. For instance, Joy, who has attended OPTIONS for years, had difficulty expressing herself and feared what others would say, especially those involved in her care. Today, knowing she has the support of those around her, Joy is very vocal and active in making decisions that affect her care, which has led to an improved living situation that is better for her and her family. There is also AJ, who used to work at a job he didn’t enjoy but was reluctant to communicate his feelings about it. With encouragement and reassurance from caregivers, AJ finally felt comfortable saying his job was not a good fit for him and that he wished to attend the OPTIONS program full-time. He’s now much more open with making requests and sharing his feelings with day support staff. Knowing they are being heard and that their wishes are being respected has led individuals like Joy and AJ to make positive changes in their own lives and form trusting, meaningful relationships with the OPTIONS staff and others who care for them.
The most recent transition that individuals and staff at OPTIONS have faced together is the relocation of their center from its previous address in Waynesboro to a new facility in Fishersville. This larger center, which officially opened last May, offers more space for participants and can support a higher number of individuals. Besides nice features like a patio and yard that will be fenced in, the new building is in a location that is more visible to the community with easier access to volunteer sites, allowing individuals to be even more integrated into the community around them. Another goal of the move was to have an opportunity to serve a higher need population, specifically individuals who are in wheelchairs. The new facility contains everything required to support these individuals and Renee says the center is expecting its first participant in a wheelchair in August.
At Fishersville OPTIONS, one can sense a mutual feeling of gratefulness between the individuals and staff who have experienced so much together in recent times. “It’s been so rewarding to see these individuals grow so much in the last year,” Renee said. “We appreciate having them in our lives. We truly are here for them and for what makes them happy.” Renee also expresses her thanks to Vice President of DD Services Gary Wilburn for the opportunity to expand the Fishersville OPTIONS program, as well as to Director of Day Support Services Pam Ringley for her support in making their center what it is today.
Related: Options Day Support