R.J. Powers was literally homeless in 2012. An emergency placement brought him to a Penn-Mar community home in York with where he settled in with only a backpack and duffle bag to his name. Struggling with autism, attention deficit disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, it would take a long time for him to warm up to his staff and join his new “family” in a group home setting.
But eventually R.J.’s drive and ambition began to surface, according to his supervisor, Natalie Place. “He has a great heart and is a very energetic, fun loving young fellow who loves to jump in and help and be a part of something. It is very important to him to continue to learn and grow.”
Extremely articulate and intelligent, R. J. can often be found reading the dictionary. “He uses big words that I have no clue what they mean,” laughs Natalie. “And when we watch Jeopardy together, he is answering the questions left and right!”
R.J. also taught Natalie how to throw a football and loves participating in Special Olympics where he excels in track and field, softball and basketball. His love for people and his desire to be the best he can be made him a perfect candidate for Penn-Mar’s Exploration & Discovery program, where the focus on his strong inventory and organizational skills landed him employment at Giant Foods and a facilities maintenance company.
R.J. leveraged this experience to land his current job at A & R Rental Center in York, where he works in the dish room washing glasses, dishes and silverware and then stacking, sorting and labeling the clean supplies for delivery to special private and corporate events.
Andrea Hilbert, R.J.’s one-on-one support person, accompanies him to work and is on hand to supervise and make sure he is comfortable completing all of his tasks. “R. J. loves dish soap,” she says with a laugh. “Too much!” He enjoys the camaraderie of the college students he works with on his four day, five-hour shifts and will be sorry to see them leave for their fall semesters.
“I really like what I do,” said R.J. The job offers a lot of diversity and he recently teamed with a co-worker to roll up an 18-foot slide for a Bounce House. A family business with an atmosphere to match, R.J. appreciates the perks that go along with his job, including his boss buying donuts for the hardworking crew and free slushies for a job well done on a hot summer day.
He also enjoys earning a paycheck and is saving to buy a Samsung Galaxy cell phone. R.J. shares his good fortune with his household and recently purchased a large clock shaped like a bike wheel for his community home and decorative wall frames showing pictures of himself and his friends acting silly. Claiming he’s “just getting started to decorate,” his supervisor sees this initiative and proud accomplishment as a perfect example of how the staff at Penn-Mar is learning how to grow and move into a person-centered way of thinking to support their individuals.
Staff at the house will often find random notes and “happy poems” R.J. writes and leaves to brighten their days. His latest musing is a reflection of the peace and transformed life he has found at Penn-Mar.
We all have a purpose in the world.
Everybody has something to live for and something special to offer.
And we all can learn from somebody who lived a good life
and lives life to the fullest.
A sampling of the decorations R.J. has purchased for his home.