Personal Stories Archive
John O’Connell, a Lifeworks Custodian for the past eleven years is an easy-going gentleman. He is known as the “go to guy” at the administrative offices on Clapboardtree Street. John receives Lifeworks’ In-Home-Support (IHS) services thru his long time Case Manager Mary Perry. Living on his own, John enjoys his freedom and independence. He cooks and does all his own grocery shopping. John stays physically fit by doing a lot of walking while running errands. Prior to residing in Norwood, John grew up with a close-knit family of 5 siblings in Foxboro where he cut grass and shoveled snow for his neighbors.
In pre-pandemic times, John helped out at Hip Hop dances in the kitchen serving pizza and setting up refreshments. John is also a member of Lifeworks’ Special Olympics’ basketball team formerly known as The South Norfolk Eagles winning a gold medal in 2020. John takes great pride in his athletic achievements. The walls of John’s home are adorned with many of his Special Olympics medals. One of his favorite sports in his younger days was softball. John also goes bowling occasionally. A self-advocate, John serves on the board of Our Club as Vice President. John recently participated in a “Standing Strong” promotional video for the Social-Recreational program.
John is a loyal and devoted friend. He recently came to a friend’s aid during a medical emergency. EMTs praised John for his calm, quick thinking, stating his actions saved his friend’s life. The two are inseparable and often walk to local shops and restaurants. John’s friend is a frequent guest at John’s extended family gatherings.
Lifeworks has been an integral part of Tom Warren’s life since receiving Early Intervention services as a young child through what was then Lifework’s sister agency, The Arc of South Norfolk. Tom’s mom Mercedes served as a Human Rights Committee member volunteer for The Arc. A native of Medfield, Tom has three siblings. Outgrowing his previous group home in Dedham, earlier this year he moved into a Lifeworks group home and has found it to be a great fit.
Tom has participated in the William F. Abel Day Habilitation Program on Clapboardtree Street since 2014. He is very socially connected and in pre-pandemic times attended Hip Hop dances, bowling outings in both Millis and Norwood. He has also participated in bocce as well as backyard barbeques at Lifeworks. Tom navigates technology with ease and has stayed in touch with friends through Zoom and FaceTime. Tom has quite an impressive resume. His first job was working at Stop & Shop for Peapod, followed by Ames, Target and the TJ Maxx Corporate office in the Accounts Payable department. Tom’s most recent job was at Kings Bowling at Legacy Place. Tom stays active by gardening, swimming, and bike riding. Tom loves to travel with his siblings and has taken trips to Disney in both California and Florida as well as a Disney Cruise. Those who know Tom well, know he is quite the prankster and according to his sister Susan has great comedic timing. Tom is a fan of all the Boston sports teams especially the Red Sox and follows Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom loves spending time with his family especially his nieces and nephews.
As a teenager, Michael Foley began receiving support from Lifeworks’ Family Autism Center (FAC). Now an independent young adult, Michael is very appreciative of staff who’ve have helped him move into his own apartment and secure an internship which led to his present full time job. Michael is employed as a front of house wait staff at the senior living facility, NewBridge on the Charles. He truly enjoys his job and helping residents at the facility. Michael regularly participates in outdoor walks as well as virtual social group check-ins, game nights, and movie discussion groups held by FAC. He often gets together with friends he’s made through Lifeworks’ activities. A self-advocate, Michael has attended Autism Awareness Day events at the Statehouse. In pre-pandemic times, Michael often volunteered at Halloween parties and Hip Hop dances as well as toy making workshops for younger children and families. Michael likes pop musicians Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift and says one of his favorite Taylor Swift songs is ‘Shake it Off’’.
Dexter Young has been a part of the Lifeworks community since 1998. After living in a group home in Foxborough for over 11 years, Dexter made his dream of living in his own apartment come true. Dexter is very independent and is quite the entertainer and athlete. He takes pride in his home and all of his electronics that he has purchased for his apartment with his paycheck from working at Old Navy. Dexter is a champion bowler, and participates in our floor hockey program and many of Lifeworks’ social events.
Shirley Brissette is the recipient of the ‘Individual Employment’ award at Lifeworks’ Fall Harvest Employment Award ceremony held last November. In 2017, Shirley advocated to train as a cashier while working as part of the maintenance crew at Wegmans. With hard work, training and dedication she accomplished her goal of becoming a cashier. Hardly ever missing a shift, Shirley was disappointed when the pandemic forced a reduction in work hours but she has since been called back to work and is thrilled! Shirley also works part-time as a filer at Republic Plumbing.
When not working, Shirley loves spending time with her cat and family at her Lifeworks residence. A Patriots fan, she also loves catching up with friends and going out to eat.
Rachel Slawsby is an active and sociable individual who is excited by doing activities she enjoys. Some of her hobbies include photography, exercise, vacationing, browsing the web, sending emails and arts and crafts. Rachel works on at least one of her hobbies every day! Rachel has also been an active member of the Social and Recreation Department since she first moved into a Lifeworks residence. Rachel participates in basketball, bowling, bocce ball, Hip Hop Café dances and yearly special events held by Social and Recreation. Rachel has received trophies for bowling and basketball dating back to 2012. Well known for her outgoing, friendly and inquisitive nature, Rachel makes anyone she meets feel right at ease.
Jeremy Jordan is a recipient of the Dependable Employee Award presented at a virtual Fall Harvest Award ceremony held last fall by Lifeworks Employment Services in Norwood. A quick learner, SimpliSafe was pleased to recommend Jeremy for his award for his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Employed at SimpliSafe for the past four years, Jeremy refurbishes equipment such as smoke detectors. Pre-Covid, Jeremy had a very active social life one in which his sister has a hard time keeping up with. Jeremy participates in many of the programs run by the Family Autism Center (FAC), such as bowling and kick-ball. Jeremy is also a familiar face at FAC’s Explorer Programs where field-trips are often taken to parks, museums and cliff walks by the ocean as well as pumpkin picking and woodworking activities to name a few.
Jeremy lives with his family in Norfolk. Jeremy is one of three siblings who are triplets. Both Jeremy and his brother James live with autism. Sister Kathryn is their caregiver and receives support from the Adult Family Care program. For more on how the Adult Family Care program has supported Jeremy and his family see story in the MetroWest Daily News here: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20190926/adult-foster-care-one-of-best-kept-secrets
Tyler Forgeron, a Walpole resident served by The Family Autism Center was recently awarded the 2020 Jane Forsberg Advocacy Award for his efforts through Tyler Can!, a recycling initiative he launched through social media during the Covid-19 pandemic, collecting bottles and cans. He has raised thousands of dollars for local charities. Brian Clark, Director of The Family Autism Center and Christine Baker, Adult Support Coordinator, presented the award thanking him for his leadership, advocacy and dedication to his community. The Family Autism Center is a grateful recipient of his efforts by receiving over $1,300 slated for its programs. Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Tyler has been an active participant in the community as well as volunteering at our programs.
29th Legislative Event
29th Legislative Event Central Mass Gathering with the Governor
The Arc-Center of Hope Foundation, Inc., led the 29th Annual Legislative Event called “Gathering with the Governor” on Thursday, May 30th at the AC Hotel by Marriott. Local area service providers came together to bring awareness of the needs of the I/DD community. Co-sponsors included The Arc of Opportunity,
HMEA, Life-Skills, Open Sky Community Services, Venture Community Services, Seven Hills Foundation, Riverside Community Care, South Central Citizens Advisory Board, The Arc of Massachusetts, and ADDP. The Chamber of Central Mass South and the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce were also sponsors of the event.
Governor Charlie Baker was the featured speaker and was presented an award in gratitude for his commitment to advocating for disabled individuals. In his remarks, he said he was glad to “get a front-row seat to all the great work that people do.”
Legislators from Central Massachusetts and local provider agencies presented awards to those who have shown remarkable dedication and support to those we serve. The following awards were given: Rosemarie Derry, Family Support Professional; Eileen Harris, Making a Difference Award; Michael Seibold, Leadership; Peter Geoffroy, Hero; Jessica Santiago, Linda Cournoyer Award for Excellence in Advocacy; Peggy Akinlosotu, Direct Support Professional; Dan Stewart, Shining Star and Lynda Moore, Legacy of Leadership.
Several local businesses also received awards for their inclusion in the workforce: Chartwells, Community Inclusion Champion; Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center, Ripple Effect Award; Harrington Healthcare, Civic Engagement Award; and Dell Technologies, Corporate Community Partnership. These businesses have offered employment opportunities to folks with disabilities. Their realization that they receive valuable and dedicated employees has led to numerous paid and meaningful opportunities for our folks.
Cody Decarteret, a Webster resident, was awarded the Courage and Bravery Award for his help during a fire that broke out in his house. He was able to stay calm, alert his mother, and help firefighters navigate when they arrived at the scene.
The Center of Hope Foundation and the other local service providers continue to advocate for these individuals and will continue to fight for additional funding, not only for supporting these individuals but also to open up new opportunities within the community.
There’s a new neighbor just off the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, bustling with activity and its occupants won’t hesitate to tell you how much fun they have on a daily basis. Arc Connections is a day program offered through The Arc of South Norfolk, headquartered in Westwood, Massachusetts. Formerly known as Senior Connections, a day program for older adults with disabilities first opened its doors in 1993 in a 1,200 square foot building in downtown West Roxbury. The Arc of South Norfolk recognized a growing need for an aging population with increasing medical needs in the Boston area, so a larger space was sought. The Arc’s new program, Connections, has recently located at 1580 VFW Parkway. This beautiful 16,550 square foot facility is shared with The Arc of South Norfolk’s affiliate, Lifeworks, which offers residential, skill building, and employment support.
Connections has a large common area for socializing and activities, as well as classrooms equipped with ceiling-mounted lifts for those needing assistance. There is also a large, accessible kitchen space for the groups to make their favorite dishes. Access to occupational, speech, behavioral, and physical therapy consultations are available as well. The Connections program focuses on community involvement and engagement by its participants. The program also encourages a rapport among participants; enhancing self-esteem, independence, life and motor skills.
The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Connections participants must have approval from the Department of Developmental Services, as Mass Health funds the program. Individuals who attend the day program have varied schedules that include anything from 1-5 days a week, half-days or what best supports their needs. Connections welcomes individuals age 22 and over, residing within a 20-mile radius of the West Roxbury address. The current, but expanding, staff consists of an Associate Director, Healthcare Supervisor and two Case Managers. Now in a position to welcome more individuals, Connections is looking
to fill more spots in the upcoming months.
Connections offers health and wellness programs, formal exercise classes, walking groups, and a cardiovascular “Wii Fitness” program. In addition, Connections offers educational and artistic instruction including skill development to stimulate and encourage the growth of each individual, painting canvas, a gardening program, nutrition education, a music group, and cooking classes. “Engagement is our biggest priority,” says Andy Smith, Associate Director of Connections. “Encouraging developing rapports between the participants we serve is something we put a lot of
A typical day at Connections begins with “morning circle,” where each individual takes a turn facilitating the group discussion. The group then transitions to conversations about current events. “It is a wonderful vehicle for social interaction”, says Andy. Andy also noted he has to be very cognizant of the energy level of the group on a daily basis when planning activities. “The key is finding the right balance.” The group participates in community exploration, recreational outings, inclusive community programs, grocery shopping, and bowling. Ann, a long-term participant with a bright smile and a sparkle in her eye, told me during my visit, “I absolutely love the activities here and all the friendships I’ve made over the years.” Gene, who’s been attending the program for nine years, shared, “I love to exercise a lot.” There is always an option to opt out of a structured activity should the individual not wish to participate. A less intensive choice is offered such as a card game, tabletop activity or going for a walk. When asked about what he enjoys most about his job as Assistant Director of Connections, Andy responded, “I am surrounded by so many unique personalities. I can be myself and have an authentic rapport with everyone.”
For more information about Connection’s programs, contact Andy Smith, Associate Director at (617) 469-1986 or email@example.com.