by Ellen Timmerman-Borer, Chief Development Officer
“We are friends.” That is what Deb Gjoraas and her husband, Jake, say about Carla, Cindy, Stephanie, and Amy, the four women who live at Hammer’s Rockford home located in Plymouth. For 20 years, Deb has been giving the ladies piano lessons, going to plays and concerts, sharing holidays and family celebrations, and growing from a volunteer to a dearly loved and valued member of the Rockford family. In her early career, Deb was a music therapist and worked with children in schools with disabilities and through that, she found Hammer, and it has been a perfect fit ever since.
Deb sees the ladies weekly when it works with all of their busy schedules. She loves the flexibility to spend time with just Cindy or Carla or the whole group. Even the caregivers join in the fun sometimes! Deb relies on the Direct Support Professionals at the home to help manage calendars and they communicate with Deb to arrange time together. When they can’t be together, Deb and Jake stay in touch with the house by sending postcards, even from as far away as New Zealand.
Sometimes life challenges bring them together. When Carla’s mom passed away, Deb was there for her. When Cindy had surgery, Deb visited her at her mom and dad’s home. And when Deb’s husband, Jake, was battling cancer, he heard kind words of encouragement and concern from the Rockford ladies. They share and confide in each other as friends do. They also have a lot of fun. A favorite date is going to local summer concerts together, almost always ending the night with ice cream.
Deb and Jake have done thoughtful planning about supporting Hammer with their financial gifts. They recalled at a Reach for Ralph fundraising event when “Lunch with Ted,” a man served at Hammer, was the top live auction item that year. “You really changed his story from a man with challenges, to a man who is a star,” Deb says.
Deb and Jake have made a conscious choice to put Hammer at the top of their list of nonprofits to support with their gifts. “We give to a few organizations who are doing well and who have long-range plans for the people they are serving and their staff. We see Hammer meeting the needs of the ladies at the Rockford home now and know they will need additional investment in the work, especially as they are aging.”
Deb shared in closing, “I’m proud of volunteering. Hammer lets me be a role model. I tell everyone that when I walk in that house (Rockford), I feel like I’m family. That feels good!”
If you would like to learn about a variety of ways you can help provide support for the individuals we serve at our Hammer homes, please contact Ellen Timmerman-Borer, our Chief Development Officer, at 952-277-2433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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