I was giving a tour of Lambs Farm recently, and was asked, “What keeps you awake at night?” Taken aback somewhat, my first thought was “Everything.” Afterward, I wondered what the answer really is. Where to begin?
There was a time when the financial condition of the State of Illinois was at the top of that list; however, I’ve come to accept the fact that there really is nothing I can do to solve that problem. And, although it remains a concern, today there are many more things that take precedence – such as our New Beginning and what it will really mean for Lambs Farm.
First, many of our Participants have spent more than half their lives at Lambs Farm. They are proud of the skills they have mastered, the responsibilities they have taken and the independence they have enjoyed. Now, however, some have reached a point in their lives when they cannot do many of the things they once could. Those Participants are finding they no longer can work at their jobs due to diminishing dexterity or their lack of ability to stand for long periods of time; they no longer are able to take care of their own daily hygiene, dress themselves or attend to their growing medical needs; they can no longer navigate stairs; or they now need a walker or wheelchair to get around. Of necessity, we now have two staff members on second shift in each of our nine Group Homes, and have added one more nurse to our Health Services department. We have added staff and expanded the space available for our JOY (Senior) Program to accommodate new people joining, and created an Activities Program for others to preserve the skills they have and possibly acquire some new interests.
Then, there are the younger Participants, many of whom are newer to Lambs Farm. Because they literally grew up in a different world than those who have been here for many years, it is important that we work to meet their expectations in order that their life experiences, although somewhat different, are every bit as meaningful as they have been for their predecessors. Some have kept their community jobs, and many others now work in our campus businesses. We have added Softball to our Special Olympics program and continue to modify offerings from our Quest and Fine Arts programs in an effort to offer them the choices they need to continue to grow and enjoy the individual lifestyle that Lambs Farm provides.
True to our mission, we are committed to ensuring our older Participants grow old with the dignity they deserve. It is, after all, in large part due to our exemplary programming that they are living longer than ever anticipated. At the same time, after waiting to join Lambs Farm for so many years, it is more than fitting that we assure our younger Participants the ability to enhance their lives by meeting and exceeding their expectations. Of course, all of these modifications and additions to our programming do not come without a cost. With 35% of our programming dedicated to our “quality of life” programs that already do not qualify for State funding, adding even more is a very real concern. I suppose above all else that is what really keeps me awake at night.
And then I focus on the many people who have supported our efforts over the years – those of you who believe in our mission and who have made an investment in the lives of the remarkable men and women of Lambs Farm. Our New Beginning is really what the legacy of Lambs Farm has always been – to provide our Participants every opportunity to live meaningful lives. Now, more than ever, your support will ensure that they will do just that.
Dianne M. Yaconetti