By Julane Rose, Associate Director of Development

As a Direct Support Professional and Program Manager in Training, Ricky Russell knows it takes kindness, patience and abiding respect, every day, to build trust. The men he supports know he has their best interests at heart; they trust him.

Since 2007, Ricky has supported Jim at Ridgeview. He has built a remarkable bond with Jim that has enabled him to make positive and lasting changes.

Ricky and Jim“When I started working with Jim, he didn’t want to shower or go to work,” said Ricky. “I built a friendship with him. I would make agreements with him to go out for coffee or lunch. I ask him (not tell him), ‘Are you ready for your shower?’ Now, if other staff members are having trouble getting Jim to shower, they just say ‘I’ll tell Ricky’ and he gets in the shower right away!”

“It’s very important to me that the guys go out into the community looking good, clean, well-groomed,” says Ricky. “It makes such an impression.”

The trust Ricky has developed with Jim has helped Jim face some of his greatest fears. Jim used to experience such extreme anxiety going to medical or dental appointments that he needed medication to manage his stress. Unfortunately, the medication made him feel drowsy. Ricky offered Jim an alternative: he could be brave and go to the dentist without medication, and then they could go to lunch together afterward. Jim took Ricky up on his offer and gained more confidence over time. “I told the doctor, ‘Jim doesn’t need those drugs anymore,’” says Ricky flashing his winning smile. “It’s been four years now and he’s doing better all the time.” Jim now readily goes to appointments without medication because he knows Ricky will be by his side, and they will enjoy lunch together!

Ricky originally went to school for engineering; however, after coming to work at Hammer, he knew he had a passion – and talent – for serving people with disabilities. “You can see [that] you make an impact. I tell other staff, you need to have a passion for this work. I’ve had a passion for this work since day 1. I call parents regularly to give them details about what’s going on with their child. I love what I’m doing and I do it with joy and respect for Jim and the other guys.”

Ricky recently visited his homelands of Liberia and Ghana and returned to the U.S. with a gift for Jim: a necklace which Jim treasures. When he took Jim out for his birthday recently, Jim asked him directly, ‘Why do you do all you do for me?’ Ricky’s reply was simple, direct and heartfelt: “Because you’re a human being… and I’m a human being too.”

“I came from nothing,” says Ricky. “I learned to trust, to give freely.” Ricky is grateful to be part of the Hammer family. “Hammer cares about the staff and they care about the people we serve. I’ve worked at other group homes and they come nowhere close. Hammer might not be the biggest but they are #1 to me.”