At first glance, the group home on Norby Road, near Kiantone, seems a lovely, attractive residence.
It is clearly inviting, with tall trees surrounding it and well-maintained landscaping which gives a cared-for look to the property. You wish to see it inside. Invited in, you see that you have arrived at a place where caring people live. The interior of the house demonstrates good housekeeping. It is immaculate; not a spot of dust or dirt anywhere and when the residents emerge, life turns somewhat enchanting.
This house is known as an ''individualized resident alternative'' and Kae Lachiusa-Kent, the resident director, is an engaging person. She states the elements of the group home and introduces the residents: Heather Potter, 36; Janelle McIntyre, 29; and Rebekah Swart, 32.
From left are Rosemary Nadeau, Carol Hanson, Betty Ryder, Lisa Mattoon, Heather Potter, Janelle McIntyre, Rebekah Swart, Kae Lachiusa-Kent and Nancy Shorterage at the Norby Road Group Home in Kiantone.
They are well-mannered, serious, vivacious women (Kae calls them her ladies) who enjoy and are proud of their home and their association with one another. They are developmentally disabled adults who are ''looking for an alternative to living at home, because they want more independence.''
These are the words of Kae, the director, and all efforts at the home are focused on the ladies achieving this goal. These ladies are mentally and physically challenged. They are taught the basics of maintaining a home and living in harmony with each other. They learn the cooking and housekeeping chores they are responsible for doing. They adhere to the mission statement for The Resource Center; this mission is repeated, in part, here:
''The mission of Residential Services is to provide a home for persons with developmental disabilities, with all the necessary and desired services and supports to achieve integration in the community, increased independence in a variety of areas and a level of productivity based on the unique qualities of each individual.''
Some background on each of those at the home begins with Kae. She is the residential manager with degrees from community colleges in Michigan and Jamestown. She is a certified direct care aide, as are all the staff at the home, and in 1984 she began managing a home on Harris Street with 12 developmentally adults. She lives in Jamestown, is married, says dogs are her hobby and in 2005 came to Norby Road to open and manage the home. She initiated a Norby Road mission statement, part of which bears mentioning: ''We will always remember that we are the role models and persons of trust who are looked to for guidance ... we will continue to teach, nurture and always remember that possibilities are endless.'' She has an admirable energy and devotion to these ladies. Her attention to her responsibilities is awesome.
Someone who works competently and happily at Norby Road Group Home is Rosemary Nadeau, friend of this columnist and a true advocate of the good work done by The Resource Center. She says she goes eagerly to work with the ladies, and their closeness to her shows a likewise devotion. She often has the ladies at her home and is planning a Disney World outing with them in the fall.
Heather Potter is a whimsical, talkative and obviously happy woman. Her life here is satisfying to her and she shows her happiness in hugs for everyone.
Janelle loves music, her Playstation and computers. Her electronic skills are talked about by everyone. Though a bit more reserved, she does say, ''I love this beautiful house.''
Rebekah is a serious and thoughtful woman and has intelligent comments when asked. Her one delight, she says, is going out to eat and shopping.
In every sense, the ladies are a contented crew. It must be mentioned that the ladies all have jobs. Rebekah works at The Resource Center and Burger King. Heather works at The Basket Company and The Resource Center, and Janelle works on sewing at The Resource Center. Each of the women receives a paycheck and return some of it to their maintenance but are keen on banking and spending the rest. Sound familiar?
Brenda Johnson, mother of Heather, talks glowingly of Heather's life on Norby Road.
''She has been there for eight years,'' she says, ''and it's the best thing that ever happened to her. She is very independent and they have made her that way. She has blossomed, is confident and is happy to be where she is.''
Brenda states that she did not have the time and energy to work with Heather and as she got older, her mother could tell that others could teach her, work with her and she could accept them as role models. And of course, that is the mission that has been part of Norby Road Group Home. Brenda herself works with occupational health at WCA Hospital.
Kae, the Norby Home director, says that all the parents echo these statements of Brenda; they have all seen significant improvement in their daughters and don't hesitate to tell everyone.
There are 29 homes in the north and south area of Chautauqua County such as this group home on Norby Road. The Resource Center is cognizant of the need and with state aid, they work to provide suitable housing for these disabled people. It is an admirable task. In this age of equality, every person is deemed worthy of whatever our society can provide. It is a revelation to the unknowing person to see that such needs are attended to - and in such a generous way.