When we think of family, in its purest form, our thoughts, more often than not, travel home to a place that is loving, nurturing and safe. A place in which the people we are connected to at the very center of our lives share with us mutual respect and understanding.
Up until about four years ago, Jimmy, 55, lived with his father, and for a long time they had shared a very full and active social and recreational life together in the community. When his father fell ill, and too ill to care for Jimmy himself, he turned to Penn-Mar in search of a home where he felt secure that his son could live and be cared for when he was gone.
Jimmy’s first home at Penn-Mar turned out not to be quite the right fit for him. A very energetic and outgoing person by nature, Jimmy thrives on activity and the men he first shared a home with were not as mobile and active as he wanted to be. So he asked for a transfer.
“Given the understanding that the people you live with are your roommates for life, we try very hard to place an individual with others who share many commonalities,” says Kathryn “Kas” Jasinski, Residential Supervisor, who this past January celebrated her 10th anniversary with Penn-Mar. “Jimmy came to us and loved it right away. He loved the energy and the fun atmosphere.”
Jimmy shares his Penn-Mar home with Robert, Wayne and Greg. In the nearly two years that he’s been there, he’s taken on the role of the big brother and has become Kas’ right-hand man about the house, helping out with whatever is needed. As Kas says, Jimmy’s innate helper quality has come out in full force, and a day doesn’t go by when he doesn’t ask “What do you want me to do.”
For her part, Kas encourages Jimmy’s nurturing character, because she understands that he wants to help and needs to be stimulated and busy, and that he’s capable of great growth and potential. “That’s kind of how I am,” she says. “If someone finds something that I’m good at, it encourages me to grow and validates my purpose.”
And busy he is. Jimmy recently landed a part-time job as a construction site helper with one of Maryland’s top roofing and remodeling companies, Brothers Services Company, based in Hampstead. He leads physical therapy sessions at home with his roommates, and regularly attends Day Program activities. A self-advocate, Jimmy attended Developmental Disabilities Day in Annapolis on February 22, with a large group from Penn-Mar advocating for DSPs. “It was amazing,” says Kas, “As DSPs we’re his voice, but he was our voice that day. It made him so proud.”
The day of Penn-Mar’s 25th Annual Black Tie Gala was a busy one for Jimmy. Not only did he attend the event with Kas, but earlier that day had the honor and pride of walking Debbie Nickle, DSP and Kas’ former senior residential assistant, down the aisle at her wedding.
“I’m so impressed with him,” says Kas. “Our job is to help him reach his potential. If you have a relationship based on love, respect and care, they know it. It makes their lives better and it makes our lives better. The relationships we have with our individuals are mutually enriching and benefiting.”
As for Jimmy, it’s simple, “This is my home and Kas is family.”