Once a month, a group of people from all walks of life, with different developmental disabilities, meet to make a difference. It’s called the We Are Unique club. It began about 7 years ago when Cathy Wilson, a sponsored residential provider with DePaul, noticed a lack of volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities, like Lisa, who Cathy cares for in her home. Cathy and Lisa, with the help of another sponsored residential provider Sue Cramer, decided to meet a need. It started small but soon blossomed into a full-fledged club with about 15 members.
“It started with just getting Lisa and her friends together to pack some bags. Then it exploded,” said Cathy.
The list of the club’s activities is long and growing. Members serve multiple organizations throughout the Hanover County area. They pack beans and rice into bags, label them, add cooking instructions, and then deliver them to local food banks. Last year, the club packaged nearly 3,000 pounds of food. They also pack hygiene kits, make valentines for veterans, and host fundraisers throughout the year to help support their mission.
While the club is centered on helping the community, it has also been life-changing for many of the members. Before the We Are Unique club was formed, Lisa, who has been a part of DePaul for 11 years, was reserved and tired easily in social situations, despite her desire to be around people. Today, she is active in every aspect of We Are Unique. She counts each of the members as her friends and her communication skills are better than ever. Cathy says it’s been amazing to watch each of the members discover something new about the club, the community, and themselves.
“They just love it. I think it’s something for them to look forward to. They’ve all become friends,” said Cathy.
Something to look forward to. It sounds small, but for people with disabilities, it is monumental. A purpose and a passion can help pull them through the tough times they will inevitably face in their life. Something to look forward to can be the bright spot in a time of darkness.
As for the sponsored residential providers involved, like Cathy, the club makes a huge impact too. One of the main goals of DePaul’s work is to empower individuals with developmental disabilities to be active members of families, experience community involvement, and find normalcy in everyday life. The We Are Unique Club is the perfect way to meet (and exceed) those goals.
The club’s growth over the past 7 years has been unexpected and exciting. Cathy, Lisa, and the rest of the club members have high hopes for where the club can go in the future. With service as the focus and kindness at the core, the sky really is the limit for the We Are Unique club.
To learn more about the club or to get involved, you can visit facebook.com/weareuniqueclub or call 804.513.2910.