Monday, July 23, 2007

Heart felt request for help from Olean resident

Why have a local service day? Here is one reason!

I recently received the following email. The names have been changed and a very few details so as to retain anonymity.

I would like to suggest a job for the BonaResponds’ local service day. It may not have the excitement of some of your trips, but your impact will be very great.

I have been working with a local resident who I will call “John” who has special needs. He is a very intelligent but also a very "unusual" person. He has lived in the same home his whole life, a home his father built. Up until 2 years ago, he lived there with his mother. She passed away from cancer. She was very reclusive and refused to go out of the area for medical treatment.

I actually met John as a result of his mother’s illness. I worked at Red Cross at the time, and he came in wanting me to help him talk specialists into coming to Olean to treat her since she wouldn't go to Buffalo or Rochester. It was a major accomplishment to get her to go to Olean General. I then also assisted him with utility bills and referrals to local social service agencies. I believe there are some mental health issues though I would not be able to give an accurate diagnosis. His only income is Social Security Disability. He is a very social person who walks into town every day to meet with his friends (older retired people who get together at local coffee shops) and he also visits many of the businesses in the area as well.

He has some lifeskills issues that have always needed to be addressed, such as personal hygiene, cleaning clothes, etc. As I have gotten to know him and his mother through the years, he has grown to trust me. He also trusts a friend of mine, Robert, who works at one of the businesses that he visits regularly. For years, John has gone there every Friday to take Robert's paycheck to the bank for him, Robert in turn gives him a few dollars for "helping" him. John has been very devoted and trustworthy with this job and is very proud of the fact that he helps Robert.

Robert and I and one of his cousins from out of town have been in the home, I don't know about any others who he has allowed in. I think he realizes that his living conditions are bad and doesn't want others to know. It is also such a daunting task. It is hard to know where to begin. As we have worked with him through these years it became obvious that one of the reasons for the poor hygiene is that he doesn't have running water in the home.
So, as mentioned in a previous email, his family pooled money and paid to have a septic system put in as well as indoor plumbing replaced.

The septic system was installed last month and it is now essential that the house be cleared out so that and the plumber that he is bringing in can get to the work area. (Just an idea but perhaps another job that you and yours may be interested in is bringing in some topsoil to plant grass or perhaps a garden and/or flowers where the bulldozer has cleared the area around his house)

I talked with Robert yesterday after hearing from you and asked him about helping to coordinate work so that when your group comes jobs would be lined up. He is going to put together a list of jobs that need to be done. He actually mentioned that it would be helpful to have a dumptser and just empty the house in one fell swoop instead of countless trips with his truck. John will most likely become stressed about having all of the junk removed but he also realizes that it needs to be done. Therefore it would be ideal to get this job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I think if we have Robert and John's cousin there as "team leaders" John will be able to handle to help a lot better since he trusts them both.

It won't be an easy job, the house is a mess but if we can get it cleared out quickly and get the plumbing installed so that he can actually take a shower, wash dishes, use a toilet, obviously his life will be drastically improved. I am working on getting him involved with Directions In Independent Living for help with some of the lifeskills training I would be happy to come and talk with the volunteers to answer any questions, as would Robert, and his cousin.

I noticed on the website that you have a smaller work day scheduled at the end of July, would you be able to have volunteers come then as well?

I hope I haven't scared you away from this mission of mercy. When I emailed his cousin to tell her there may be help coming from your group, she replied saying she read my email through her tears and that this was an answer to her prayers since she didn't know how just the three of us could get this job done alone.

The happy ending to John's story is that a group like yours saves the day by helping to make the only home he has ever known livable. If we can do that I am sure your volunteers will feel the joy of a job well done for years to come for they would have helped a proud and pious man maintain his independence and GREATLY improve his quality of life.

I am also sure that as John gets to know some of the volunteers and realizes that they are there to help him, he will open up to them and allow them to get to know him. He can really carry on some very intelligent conversations about politics, satellite systems, computers (he does email and loves to communicate that way so that could be another way people could get to know him)

I look forward to talking with you and your volunteers soon, and am so grateful that you have been guided into this situation. Everything happens for a reason, and "meeting" you through Mary DiRisio is a Godsend. Thanks for all that you do.

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