Mary’s life was a living nightmare.
Not much was known about Mary when our Supported Living staff received a referral from the Developmental Disabilities Administration. We were able to piece together that Mary had lived in Bellingham, was homeless and on the street for some time, then lived for a short time in an adult family home. Mary, with mental health issues, was sent to Yakima Valley State School, where she had been for a year when we met her.
While Mary’s referral was sent to many, Cascade Connections was the only supported living agency in Washington state willing to assess Mary for community living.
When we arrived for our first meeting with Mary, our impression was one of chaos. Mary’s group living situation allowed for no privacy, in fact, no quiet. During our two visits, we observed people screaming, disrobing, pounding the floors and having altercations. One of our staff was even assaulted and pulled to the floor by one of the patients not long into our visit.
Mary’s routine consisted of finding a corner during the day where she would take out her Bible and copy verses from scripture. We discovered that Mary (who had no teeth) had lost her dentures when she arrived at the school. They had not been replaced by the staff; instead they fed her a diet consisting of food that had been ground up to a kind of gray goo.
As we left that first day, we will never forget the prayers Mary offered for us and her constant request to go home with us. It was very difficult to tell her no. But we did say that we would do everything in our power to bring her to our program.
It took several weeks to finalize the details but, in early August 2013, we finally learned Mary would be coming to our program. Many things had to fall into place for this to happen. We needed to find an appropriate living situation, and find out what possessions Mary had and what she would need to move into the community. We discovered the adult family home that Mary left had been closed during the time she was gone and any possessions she had were gone.
Getting Mary home from Yakima was an adventure of its own. She was filled with energy – excited and nervous. Mary had not ridden in a car for nearly a year. She kept us alert with conversation, stories and questions about her future new life with us.
Mary came to us with very few belongings, lumped into three black trash bags. Her first full day home, Mary chose to go to True Value to pick out items for her bathroom and kitchen, to Rite Aid to pick up toiletries, and then to McDonald’s. She was exhausted, but delighted. It is the small things, such as Mary telling a kind clerk at True Value, “I am telling your boss you get a raise!” that confirmed for us this was the right thing to do. Mary did not come with any bed or furniture, and Cascade Connections helped get these items through donations from various community members.
Looking back since Mary began services with Cascade Connections, we see so many wonderful changes in her life. Mary now has her own room, a church community and takes classes through Bellingham Parks and Recreation. Her advocates worked tirelessly to get Mary new dentures. She now has a million dollar smile and is no longer restricted to a ground food diet.
Mary works with Cascade Connections vocational staff, and volunteers weekly for the Family Christian Store in Lynden. Mary is quick to say, “I love my job!”
Mary attends church at Hillcrest Chapel in Fairhaven and doesn’t miss the coffee social afterward. She often walks to Lynden shops and has made many friendships. All of these blessings would not have been possible without your prayers and financial support.
Unfortunately, Mary’s story is not unusual. Many people remain in institutions or other marginal living situations and are not receiving services. Taxpayers often help to foot this bill that can come to hundreds of thousands of dollars per person, per year. Cascade Connections is able to serve clients in their own community, where they find enrichment and relationships, for a fraction of the cost.
Your prayers and financial support are needed to help us serve people like Mary. By partnering with us, and making a donation to Cascade Connections, you make a difference in someone’s life. Please make a donation and help make a life-changing difference in someone’s life!