CLINE: Hi-Hope Center working toward more community connections

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

Hi-Hope Center working toward more community connections

One of the priorities these days at the Hi-Hope Service Center is the Community Connection Project that helps pair developmentally disabled adults from the organization with locals who may be able to help them in their area of interest. It's a way to connect both sides, and so far it's going well.

Janis Hunter, director of person-centered training and coaching for Hi-Hope, uses one man's desire to play the keyboard as an example. Hi-Hope was able to find a keyboard teacher in the community who worked with the man -- who enjoyed the keyboard but had no experience with it at all. Though the man is non-verbal, the pairing worked well.

"He took to her beautifully," Hunter said. "He knew that she knew what to do. And even though he's non-verbal, she really understood him.

"(It's an example) that just because a person is developmentally disabled, he doesn't need to be apart from the community."

Hunter said there are pairings that have worked well, and some that have taken a couple of tries before they have.

"You know instantly when you get that right combination," she said. "It's magic."

One of Hunter's main goals is to help Hi-Hope staffers work toward making these connections, she said. But right now Hi-Hope is also working to fill out its staff -- particularly with part-timers who work the weekend shifts. Hi-Hope has five group homes in the Gwinnett area -- two in Snellville and one each in Lawrencevile, Lilburn and Bethlehem -- and is looking for up to 20 direct support professionals to work at them on weekends.

There are three weekend shifts -- day, night and overnight -- and the main responsibilities are providing support in the form of daily living events like cooking, cleaning and bathing and in helping provide community outreach by taking the residents out shopping, to the movies or even to church. Hi-Hope CEO Susan Boland Butts said prospective employees need good writing skills and an eye for observation in addition to their interpersonal skills. She's looking for creative people who enjoy team building and who also make sure that the residents interact with the outside world.

"One of our goals here is to, as much as possible, have the residents connected to their communities," Butts said.

To continue that community building, Hi-Hope needs to add to its staff while also adding to the group of people who are interested in helping the residents further a skill or interest. If you are interested in either, you can call the center at 770-963-8694.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.