Meet Tony, a MRI Day Vocational Training participant. Tony may be blind, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing his passions, including music. Tony taught himself to play piano by ear at the age of five. However, his musical abilities don’t stop there! Tony can also play keyboard, auto harp and sing.
MRI clients and employees can hear Tony’s music around lunchtime. Monday – Friday from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Tony plays piano outside the cafeteria so those who are eating lunch can enjoy some smooth tunes. Tony enjoys playing the piano because other people enjoy it. One of his favorite things to do is make new friends and he feels he does this best through music.
Tony used to travel around to various nursing homes and libraries to play piano for the guests. He hopes to start doing that again soon so he can continue meeting new people. His current goal is to create a CD and hear himself on the radio.
When Tony is not playing one of the various instruments he enjoys, he can be found bowling with his friends, hanging out with his girlfriend or watching a classic Western film.
MRI’s Our Voice Through Art has allowed Olivia to gain confidence, make friends and think outside the box. Through the class, she has been able to explore various materials, which has shown her how to look at the world differently.
Olivia’s communication skills have also improved as she becomes more comfortable asking for help, sharing materials and complimenting others’ work. She even carries on conversations with her peers as they complete their artwork.
But most importantly, her mom explains, “she feels a part of something. She feels important.”
With the support of MRI’s intermittent CILA, Larry is able to live by himself in his apartment and maintain his independence.
Larry has lived in his own apartment for four years with the support of MRI’s intermittent CILA. Before living on his own, Larry lived in a strict group home where many decisions were made for him. Things like when to eat meals and when to go to bed were determined by the group home. Larry knew he was capable of making decisions and wanted to live his life the way he wanted to live it, so he reach out to MRI’s intermittent CILA program. MRI’s intermittent CILA allows Larry to be independent and live independently while still providing needed life and safety supports. He is now able to plan his days around what he wants to do. Larry enjoys exercising, cooking his own meals and going to church. Larry is very active in his community and has made many friends during his daily walks around Kroger for exercise, trips to Taco Bell and weekly church visits.
Twenty two years ago Larry made the decision to become a vegetarian. He did so as a way to become healthier and has diligently stuck with it.When Larry began to have health issues because he was not getting enough iron, MRI staff supported him in meeting with a doctor so he could learn how to add more iron into his diet, which he is now able to do. Larry uses his vegetarian cook book to plan meals for himself. During the fall and winter, his favorite meals to make are soups and vegetarian chili because they are easy to reheat he can eat it all week long. It is safe and easy for Larry to cook in his own apartment. If anything were to go wrong, Larry has MRI CILA staff just a phone call away.
Larry is not only strict with his vegetarian diet, but also with his work out routine. He takes daily walks and works out three times a week. This type of organization and precision can be seen in other aspects of Larry’s life as well. He keeps a calendar on his wall and at the end of every day he writes down exactly what he did that day. Because Larry is so structured himself, adding another layer of daily structure does not work. He does best when he has the freedom to organize his day based on what he determines to be priorities in his life, which is what MRI is able to provide.
Now that Larry has an apartment to call his own, he has new goals. He already saved money and bought a new couch. Now he is saving money to go on a trip with his friends this fall. Larry decided to put part of his monthly spending money in the bank and cut back on his trips to Taco Bell in order to save for the trip. With the help of MRI, he is in charge of his own finances, which means he has taken on the responsibility of setting money aside for food and bills.
Larry creates his own schedule and spends a lot of time in the community and with his church family. The staff at Kroger, Taco Bell and his local Subway enjoy seeing Larry about town. Many people know Larry because of his regular visits. In fact, they tend to worry if he does not show up for a few days. Larry has been able to thrive since moving into his own apartment with the support of MRI. He has discovered new things he enjoys doing, new places he had never been and he has made new friends in the community.
- Larry at home
- Larry showing Melanie his apartment
- Larry's side table
- Larry's vegetarian cook book
- Larry's calendar
In October of 2004 Laury suffered a traumatic brain injury, leaving her in a medically-induced coma. When she regained consciousness a few months later, she had a long road ahead of her. The road began with having to learn how to walk and talk again. Laury now reflects on her recovery process with openness and humbleness. She believes that her stubbornness helped her through her recovery; she is grateful for her second chance.
After her accident Laury moved to Decatur, Illinois to be near family and was quickly referred to MRI. When she was ready to return to work in 2006, MRI’s Community Employment Services and Laury’s own “stubbornness” helped her reach her goals. The Community Employment Specialists at MRI helped Laury through vocational interest and capabilities assessments. In the weekly job training sessions at MRI, Laury quickly demonstrated her dependability, ability to follow through and readiness for employment. Laury was placed in a kitchen staff position at St. Mary’s Hospital, where she worked from 2006-2013. This position allowed Laury to have support in her first job after her brain injury, with 3 others from MRI and a job coach on-site.
“When I came to Macon Resources, it was a godsend. They help you as much as they possibly can. MRI gives you all the resources, and you do the footwork.”
When Laury’s kitchen helper position at St. Mary’s was eliminated due to budget cuts, Laury came back to MRI again for help. This time, with years of solid employment under her belt, she needed less support. She got assistance again from Community Employment Specialists to apply for jobs independently. They helped her with job applications, interview preparation and job seeking.
Laury now works for Sodexo Magic at ADM corporate headquarters. After taking career interest assessments at MRI, Laury knows she is in the right field as a kitchen helper; she takes great pride in the work she does.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to sit around much,” Laury explains. “I love working in a kitchen. It keeps my mind busy and makes time go fast.”
In addition to working, Laury enjoys reading books on her Kindle and travelling with her mother. She recently moved out of government-subsidized housing and now rents her own home with the money she makes with her job at Sodexo/Magic. Laury has just purchased her first car since her accident 11 years ago. She speaks with pride on the new house she is able to pay for herself and the work she wants to do with her car.
To learn more about MRI’s Community Employment Services and Eligibility Criteria, click here.
When MRI Kid’s Connection Coordinator, Jessica Gremo, first met Hayden and his family five years ago, Hayden’s mother, Nichole, was working at KFC and was having issues finding childcare. No daycare in the area would take Hayden because he was tube fed. Nichole thought she was out of options. She contacted Kid’s Connection, a program for children of all abilities, to see if she could enroll Hayden.
At that time the MRI Kid’s Connection did not enroll tube fed children; the cost was extensive and there were no staff trained to assist. However, in order to meet the needs of the community and the families we serve, MRI changed the policy. The MRI nurse trained staff on tube-feeding so Hayden could enroll in Kid’s Connection.
Hayden has flourished at Kid’s Connection through companionship from his staff and his peers.
“Hayden is a happy active young man. He has been enrolled in Kid’s Connection for 5 years. He is still tube fed on occasion but he is also able to eat by mouth now.”
-Jessica Gremo, Kid’s Connection Coordinator
With the support of Kid’s Connection After School and Summer Care, Nichole was able to not only keep her job, she was able to go back to school. She is now a nurse, and can work, knowing her son is well cared for at Kid’s Connection.
For more information on the MRI Kid’s Connection Program, click HERE.
Julie and Andrew’s son, TJ, is enrolled in Discovery Depot Child Care Center at MRI Independence Pointe. Julie and Andrew’s older son, Landric, is a former Discovery Depot participant and is currently in Kindergarten. Landric’s kindergarten teachers were impressed with how prepared he was when school started. Julie believes, “this is because of lessons and work ethic that was instilled in him through the teachers at Discovery Depot.”
Landric and TJ were able to prepare for the structure of kindergarten with Discovery Depot’s similar daily routine. At 3 years old, the brothers began learning to sit quietly and wait for instruction, line up while keeping bodies and hands to themselves and follow directions. They were also given daily jobs to enhance social skills, like calendar helper, weather watcher and line leader. Landric and TJ have also become accustomed to being away from Mom and Dad all day, which can be an issue when entering Kindergarten. When Landric and TJ first learned to sit up, then crawl, and eventually walk, the staff were just as excited as Julie and Andrew.
“There is no place that we trust more to look after and teach him the lessons and social skills that will be needed throughout his childhood.” –Julie Cox
Discovery Depot Child Care Center serves up to 69 children ages 6 weeks to 6 years full-time and accepts children of ALL abilities. Discovery Depot emphasizes communication with the parents on the child’s daily milestones and growth by preparing journals of their music, play, art, and social activities throughout their time with us. The caring staff creates impacting ways to teach hands on discoveries that promote curiosity, self-help, joyful learning and positive self-esteem.
For more information on MRI’s Discovery Depot Child Care Center, click HERE.
Amara, an MRI Day Vocational Training and VISIONS participant, lives in MRI’s apartment-style group home.
Before moving into MRI’s apartment-style group home near downtown Decatur, Amara had experienced multiple types of living situations. As she was growing up, Amara had a great support system that allowed her to live at home and transitioned to living independently when she reached adulthood. However, after many life complications, she moved into a large group home with 15 other individuals.
Amara didn’t cope well living with that many people. She struggles socially and began to lose some of her acquired social and daily living skills. Amara knew she needed a change. She was aware of MRI’s apartment-style group home and knew she had the skills and desire to live independently. Amara advocated for herself and requested she be put on the waitlist for a spot in the apart-style setting.
MRI owns and operates nine group homes in the Decatur area; four to eight people live in each home with full-time daily support staff. These homes are called Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILA). People with intellectual disabilities build independent living skills like room care, personal care, social skills and community integration with the help of our CILA staff. Each person’s unique needs are met through family-style dining, personalized rooms and individualized services. By living in an MRI CILA home, individuals not only gain skills, but staff ensure that residents know how to use medical support.
Since moving into her own apartment in MRI’s apartment-style group home, Amara has been budgeting her money, decorating, cleaning her apartment and cooking daily meals. Through Amara’s self-advocacy she can now live on her own and also benefit from the safety and support of 24 hour support staff. Amara commutes on the public bus system and goes shopping whenever she wants. Her next goal is to get a job in the community.
Not only did Amara advocate for herself by asking to move into a more fitting living environment, but she also requested a spot in MRI’s VISIONS Mental Health Program. Amara was already in MRI’s Day Vocational Training program, but felt she would do well in a program that focused on mental health.
For more information on MRI’s Residential Services, click here. For more in the VISIONS mental health program, click here.
Facelli and her son, Jason, participate in MRI Bright Start Home Visiting. At 2.5 years old, Jason’s mom, Facelli, noticed that her son was not able to do what other children his age could do. Jason was non-verbal and needed to learn to communicate. He was not reaching developmental milestones. Facelli began searching for resources to help her son. She gave Bright Start Birth to Five Home Visiting a call.
Bright Start Parent Educator Lazetta started Home Visiting Facelli and Jason three times a month. Bright Start provided him with a variety of developmentally appropriate activities that encourage language skills in addition to his mother reading him books.
Parent Educator, Lazetta, meets with Facelli and Jason
Jason’s mom Facelli stated, “Not only was the program [Bright Start} for Jason, but it taught me parenting skills, how to connect and communicate with my little boy. Although I have a busy schedule as I attend school and work part-time, Miss Lazetta came when it was convenient for both of us. I cannot say enough about this program and now that Jason is graduating from the program we are very grateful to MRI for this program. Now Jason is talking like a little bird.”
Jason now knows all his colors, recognizes letters and numbers, and enjoys putting puzzles together. He speaks in complete sentences and expresses himself verbally instead of gesturing.
Learn more about Bright Start Home Visiting here.