An Oregon Provider Organization for Persons with Developmental Disabilities

Our Kind of Milestone

Come Join Our Team

By Stephen Rex Goode

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Today is an important milestone for our company. It isn’t measured in anniversaries, dollars, or the size of our company. It represents why we love doing what we’re doing, and unfortunately, for confidentiality’s sake, I can’t give you details. I’ll refer to our customer as Paul, though that is not his real name. As with all of our customers, Paul has a developmental disability that means that he requires support in various areas of his life and we provide that support.

I first met Paul many years ago as an independent contractor, doing this work. At the time, ARISE Mentors did not exist. My dear friend, Drew Stinson, and I were both in this field, and we were referred to as skills trainers. Our job was to assist our customers learn how to do things like housekeeping, laundry, money management, cooking, nutrition, safety, social skills, communication, accessing medical care, using community resources, and participating in community activities.

Some of you who do not have disabilities may take doing these things for granted. Without the support we provide, many of our customers would sit alone in their homes, if they have homes, or be out in the community and encountering problems they are not equipt to manage alone. Many lack the communication skills to express their needs or understand the advice they are given. Many are targets for people who would take their money, dignity, and freedom.

I accepted Paul as a customer after a bad experience with a contractor who took advantage of him financially and emotionally. At the time, he was timid, shy, and afraid of getting in trouble as he had in the past. He wanted to live life independently, but his experiences had shaken his confidence. This was all in addition to his developmental disability.

One thing that we experience with some workers is impatience for change. They come at this work as if they can wave a magic wand and customers will suddenly have all of the skills, confidence, and decisionmaking powers that they need, whereupon the worker can declare their great prowess in turning people’s lives around.

The hard truth is that it takes time, patience, and flexibility. Though I call it a hard truth, it is still a good truth. Nothing is quite as precious as that which we earn through hard work, perseverance, and even setbacks. If magic would grant it us the changes we want to make, we would never have strength to maintain the changes.

So it is with customers. If they always listened to our magnificent advice and immediately improved, then we could give ourselves a parade and praise our own competence and claim the improvements our customers make as our victory.

Over the years, I barely noticed as Paul’s self-confidence increased. Venturing out into the world with me did not yield fast results, but little by little, over years, he got more and more sure of himself. His personality changed. We went from me helping him reach out as a communicator at all to needing a few lessons in how to not overwhelm people.

His confidence increased in other ways. He could clean up after himself better. He had a few more things he knew how to cook. He learned to work a few gadgets that made living at home more enjoyable. He discovered movies, museums, and the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Best of all, he recognizes when he has improved in various areas and it brings him joy.

When Drew and I decided to form an organization so that we could pass on our skills to others and give other people a chance to find their calling in life, we chose some from our individual pool of customers to bring under the company umbrella.

This gave other of our employees a chance to discover the joys of working with Paul. As a company, we have been there to help him through even greater growth, arriving at today, when his life is going to enter its next phase. He still needs support, but with barely even noticing it, the level of supports he needs has changed. It’s time to keep moving forward.

As much as I think that we and our employees deserve some well-earned reputation, I also know from having worked in this field of ours, that no matter how skilled we are, the responsibility to change rests on the customer’s shoulders. They deserve the credit. Whether they change or not is purely a matter of choosing and many choose to not change…for now. We remain optimistic and keep working, because you can’t really predict how long some things will take.

We are looking for more people who want to experience this. If you can stare down discouragement, keep plugging away despite setbacks, work hard, give people time to change, respect people to make their own choices, and see yourself only as a guide and not a dictator, we want to talk to you. The ARISE in ARISE Mentors, stands for Attitude, Results, Independence, Support, and Experience.

When you want to come on board, go to our employment page and download an application.

Stephen Rex Goode, BSW

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