James is someone who dreams of independence. Before Progress, he spent time with a few other agencies. He bounced around in the Middle Tennessee area but never felt completely heard by support staff at other organizations. When he finally came to Progress three years ago, he wasn’t sure if this would be just another partnership that wouldn’t work out or another opportunity to be misunderstood.
James’ history of feeling let down by professionals in the past was made even more painful by his lack of family connections. Originally from South Carolina, James does not have much of a family support network that remains in his life. His mother and brother have passed away, and he doesn’t speak with remaining family members very often. His relationships with friends and support staff in Middle Tennesse are the main ones in his life, and in three years Progress staff have earned his trust and become his family.
These meaningful and supportive relationships haven’t come easy, though. Prior to Progress, James wasn’t used to feeling comfortable enough to talk to staff about what was going on in his life. He went through life’s ups and downs keeping everything in, which led to frustration and anger.
Beulah, House Manager and Direct Support Professional, has been a guiding light for James. “James used to hold things in and get frustrated, but we talk about the importance of feeling comfortable enough to come to any staff member and share what’s going on.” She encourages him to express his emotions, no matter what they might be. That alone has made a difference in how James interacts with the world.
Beulah connects with James in a way few other staff have, and she brings a great breadth of experience to her role at Progress. Prior to Progress, she worked extensively in the healthcare field, in hospitals, home health care and with people with disabilities. This solid background of working with people in a variety of capacities has helped her connect with James in a way that has made a true difference in his life.
Beulah understands how important independence is to James. When he expressed a desire to improve his reading and writing skills she found workbooks for him, and they work together on them regularly. “Beulah tries to help me,” James shared, and he teared up when talking about the ways Progress staff have affected his life, especially for helping him keep a roof over his head. “One day I’ll be independent,” he stated confidently. James is incredibly grateful for the people at Progress who care about him and understand his struggles and goals. Staff have helped James create a map with steps to achieve independence, and he works on them every day.
Although James isn’t exactly where he wants to be just yet, he enjoys the journey day-to-day. A typical day for Beulah and James involves James making his own breakfast and then going to Progress to work in his job of shredding paper for a few hours. After that, he likes to go to Centennial Park to feed the ducks, walk around the park, come home and have lunch, and spend free time working on reading and writing. James is also a car fanatic and loves playing racing games. He bragged that he knows every single new car that comes out every year. He’s seen every Fast and Furious movie; when he was younger, his brother showed him how to drift a car on a track. It comes as no surprise that the dream of independence for James also includes one day getting a driver's license. Luckily, with the support of Beulah and Progress, he’s in the fast lane to get there.