Imagine someone hearing the word CAN’T every day. You can’t work. You can’t take care of yourself. You can’t live there. Now imagine that someone is you. No one should be limited to what others think they can or cannot do. Each person deserves the right to Work, Live and Thrive in their community. Today, Southern Oregon Aspire wants to share with you a story. A story of someone who heard the word can’t and turned it into an opportunity.
On January 19th, 1958 at 1:37 am, a baby boy named Lee Alden took his first breath. The Boys and Girls Association of Portland, Oregon gave him his name and in that first year of his life became his legal guardian. In the 1950s, society was not enlightened to the world of developmental disabilities, and Lee had the distinction of being born with Down Syndrome. During this time, families were convinced that the only way to deal with children diagnosed with this disability was to institutionalize them. This action began the next branch of Lee’s life.
In June of 1959, Lee was committed to the care of the state of Oregon and by that November he was admitted to Fairview State Hospital in Salem, Oregon. During the next eighteen years, Lee was living within the state’s institutionalized programs. Lee progressed while living from institution to institution but was never given the opportunity to work or thrive in his life.
In the summer of 1977, at the age of 19, Lee continued his journey and arrived in the small town of Grants Pass, Oregon. He was placed in a foster home and went to work at ARC Activity Center, more commonly known today as Southern Oregon Aspire. This was Lee’s first experience with working. During this time Lee remembered it being difficult to adjust to the changes but for the first time he had adult expectations being set for him. He thrived. Shortly after moving to Grants Pass, Lee moved to another foster home with the Lindsey family. The Lindseys greeted Lee with open arms and open hearts. Lee finally found the family he always wanted. In 2011, the Lindseys passed away. Lee carries them in his heart forever and still considers them his mom and dad.
Lee worked at Southern Oregon Aspire in the small groups’ employment. He gained skills in landscaping, janitorial, and recycling. He lived in group homes with 24-hour support and then progressed to live independently through our Supported Living services. In 1983, an individual with Down Syndrome had a life expectancy of 25 years. Lee is 60 years young and still living life to its fullest. He has broken through barriers when people told him, “You can’t.” He has worked on his own, he has lived on his own and he continues to thrive in his life. He has shown the world he CAN.
Individuals with Down Syndrome experience a high rate of Alzheimer’s. In fact, by the age of 60, up to 50% of people with Down Syndrome are affected. Southern Oregon Aspire is proud to announce that we recently opened our 11th residential home. Every aspect of this home was specially designed and furnished to support the changing needs of Lee Alden and two other residents. We are pleased that Lee’s new home will continue to meet his needs so that he will not have to experience yet another moving day in his lifetime.
As Alzheimer’s continues to progress in Lee Alden you won’t find him saying, “I can’t.” He is retired and enjoys an active life. Lee engages daily in community activities with the support of our Community Inclusion Day Supports program. His smile and laughter remind us all that it is possible to embrace the world and not hide from it.
Here’s How You Can Help!
Southern Oregon Aspire has an increasing need to expand our Residential Support Services. Our goal for 2019 is to open three new residential facilities and provide renovation projects on nine current facilities. We invite YOU to make a difference and help more individuals, like Lee, with intellectual and developmental disabilities find a safe place to call home. We need to raise $80,000 to complete our 2019 goal. Give a gift today and create unlimited opportunities for people to Work, Live and Thrive in the community.