Sweet Memories of a Blended Family

Sweet Memories of a Blended Family

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

Kathy Jolly retired in 2000 after working as a Direct Support Professional and in a supervisory role at NER for 20 years.

I joined NER in 1980 and worked at two of our group homes until retiring in 2000. The residents were part of my family. My children grew up with the nine residents in house #1 (NER’s first group home) and they also came over to our house many times to visit and celebrate holidays and birthdays. Many times, my own family suffered, because I was taking care of my extended family. My kids and husband would stop by house #1 in the evening or on the weekends, to play with the residents and spend time with them.

Kathy and a child from the convent having some winter fun

One of the residents, Dan, liked to play ball and my kids loved playing with him, swinging on the glider with Ann, walking alongside Ken when was in the parking lot on the three-wheel bike or just playing games. We would have picnics at the house and holiday celebrations and my family would join us. When I first started, we worked 14-hour shifts on the weekend. If the weather was good, we would go on a road trip for the day, stopping at a state park to have a picnic lunch. Some people would relax, some would go for a short hike. If there was a lake, Dan and a staff member would fish. One time, three of us staff took a group up to Camp Du Nord in Ely for a long weekend in the fall. We stayed in a cabin that was not heated. It was cold and rainy all but one day—the day we needed to leave. During this trip Dan and one of the staff fished, and we went for canoe rides, short hikes, and into Ely to warm up!

Toward the end of my career, I took the residents to all their medical appointments and emergency room visits. Several of them had a fear of the medical community and it was so hard for them to understand they were just trying to help them feel better.

There are so many people who impacted our lives as direct support staff. Just a few include Lenore and Verline, our cooks for many years. Bea, Lucy, and Maria were our housekeepers and Lester and Bill were our maintenance staff. Ann and Jim were the live-in staff. There are also instrumental people at St. Mary’s who were very involved with putting on holiday parties and supporting us in so many ways. It meant a lot to the residents and staff to have them as part of our family. St. Mary’s School would let us use the gym during the winter months which gave our residents a place to play when it was so cold out.

I know the memories that we created together will be with me forever. My kids still remember spending time at NER. I’m blessed to have been a part of NER and the impact the residents made on my life is unimaginable. My love for the people I supported kept me there and I truly cared for each and every one of them.

The Legacies magazine is being distributed to all those on our Discoveries mailing list. If you would like to receive a copy of Legacies and/or be added to our Discoveries distribution list, please email barbara.brandt@hammer.org. 

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