How well do we really know the people in our lives we love, or have known for decades? This was a question Lisa Hartley asked herself one day a little more than a year ago.
Lisa, a Penn-Mar Senior Residential Assistant, has been working with the nonprofit for 27 years, the past 17 of which in a home of a group of women, whom she has long come to regard as family, bonded by mutual respect, admiration and lots of love.
The home, in Leader Heights, York, Pa., was originally purchased by the parents of Bobbi Leckrone, Lesha Breighner, Pam Martz, and Erin McDonough some 21 years ago. The parents had come together in order to create a home where their daughters could live as independently as possible with the support of Penn-Mar.
“This house has always been a place of light, love and laughter,” said Lisa. “But sadly one great light went out three years ago, when Erin passed away from Alzheimer’s.”
Erin’s loss was deeply felt and created in the home a greater awareness, as Lisa described it, that life is fleeting, and that for the women with Down syndrome, who had spent more than half their lives together, there was no “later” when it came to opportunities, to living life to its fullest. There is only “now.”
With this awareness in mind, Lisa sat down with Bobbi Leckrone one day to find out if there was anything about her that Lisa didn’t know.
“I’ve known Bobbi for as long as I’ve been with Penn-Mar, and have worked with her closely for 17 years, but I asked myself ‘how well do I really know Bobbi?’” said Lisa. “Does she have hidden dreams? Maybe we never asked the right questions, or we take for granted that we know and love her.”
Their initial sit-down conversation was long, informal, but deep. Out of it Lisa learned to her surprise, because she thought she knew everything there was to know about Bobbi, that Bobbi did indeed have hidden dreams, a dream to be an author. She recalled their conversation:
“I want to write a book,” she told Lisa.
“What kind of book are you thinking about writing,” Lisa asked.
“Well, I like to cook. I like recipes,” Bobbi replied.
“A recipe book,” Lisa mulled.
“Yes, I want to be an author of a recipe book. I want to be an author, and I want to dedicate my book to Erin,” Bobbi said. “This is my passion!”
Lisa credits Penn-Mar’s Career Ladders program for giving her the confidence, tools and leadership skills to independently initiate the project and get the ball rolling in helping Bobbi make her dream of being an author come true.
She and Bobbi began researching different types of cookbooks and publishers. They settled on creating a fundraising cookbook, the money from which Bobbi said would go to Erin’s memory and Alzheimer’s awareness. Together they reached out to many family and friends by e-mail requesting recipes, and Bobbi, to everyone’s amazement and delight, posted a live video on Facebook asking friends to help her make her dream come true.
With her hand-picked team of helpers, who typed out all the 204 recipes that were submitted, Bobbi’s book “Simply Delicious Recipes – Bon Appétit by Bobbi” began to take shape. The book is organized by courses and sides and Bobbi wrote a dedication to Erin, and included a letter of appreciation to all who helped. They ordered 200 copies of the book and so far have sold more than two-thirds of them. Along the way, Bobbi has held a few book signings.
“I would like to make a difference in the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” wrote Bobbi in her book’s letter of appreciation.
“She is so proud of her accomplishment, and we are so proud of her,” said Lisa. “Bobbi’s not only making a difference for people with Alzheimer’s, she’s making a difference for all of us, by inspiring us to keep asking the right questions and listening, so that together we can make anything happen.”