Jacob Stoecker and John Whitehurst agree that Day Options in Maryland is a great place to meet up for a fun and productive day with friends. (Pictured left to right: Jacob Stoecker, John Whitehurst, Parnell Barmer)

John has been utilizing Day Options almost since the beginning of the program. John loves the vocation space at Day Options, where he crushes cans that are then redeemed and recycled. He also practices his cooking skills in the café kitchen, where he has made soup, tacos, and sushi. John is a master Uno player, declaring himself “the Uno champion!” He appreciates the common room where folks can hang out and play games. They also do karaoke and host functions like John’s recent birthday party.

Jacob joined the group when he finished school last fall. That is a typical time for people to start at the program. Day Options participated in a Virtual Expo for Transitioning Youth this spring to give students a taste of the supports available through Aspire Living & Learning, including a virtual tour.

Jacob likes to shop at the mall and hang out with his friends. Most of them are new friends he has met at Day Options. Jacob and John love to talk about their favorite superheroes and DC Comics supervillains, just don’t ask them to agree on who’s best! John Stout, the Day Options manager, reports they are “the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met” about their favorite movies. John and Jacob can’t wait to get back to theatres as the pandemic fades.

Both John and Jacob are members of the self-advocacy group, Voices of U.S. (Unified Speakers). In April, Voices of U.S. had two events. The group met up virtually for their third shared meeting with Embrace Our Awesome Power, a self-advocacy group from the Providence Center. Voices of U.S. also attended a virtual meeting with Maryland legislative delegate Nicolaus Kipke to express their concerns about disability access and affordable housing. The next meeting is on August 11th from 4-5 pm, and interested individuals can attend virtually from any state. Just contact Parnell Barmer at pbarmer@allinc.org. Jacob reports, “We have a lot of fun and everything. We meet new friends.” And John loves the pizza when they meet in person.

Parnell Barmer oversees Day Options. His highest priority is making sure that every person has a wide variety of choices for community participation and for pursuing their interests. Parnell reaches out regularly to community organizations and businesses to create relationships and share resources. That can be as simple as connecting to local restaurants where folks like to eat as a group, or as in-depth as arranging volunteer and employment opportunities for individuals seeking work. John Stout ensures that the necessary logistics and support are in place for everyone to succeed in their chosen activities.

Recently, Day Options partnered with the Harford County Parks and Recreation Department to offer weekly gym time at the rec center, where individuals can pursue pick-up games, fitness training, or whatever interests them. One person is working to beat her pre-COVID record for running laps. On another weekday, members of the Harford County community meet up with individuals supported by Day Options at the rec center to enjoy board games and socializing.

Volunteering is a big part of the Day Options offerings. While most opportunities were put on hold during the pandemic, folks are getting back to work this spring and summer. Ensuring people have enough to eat is a theme for upcoming events. Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to seniors, will be restarting. Day Options will be leading a food drive for The Harford Family House, a shelter for families experiencing homelessness, as well as helping prepare for weekly food giveaways at the Epicenters in Edgewood and Aberdeen. Day Options participants will continue their community garden as well.

Making community connections benefits individuals supported by Day Options directly, but also indirectly through developing the direct support professional (DSP) workforce. Day Options has partnered with The Maryland Workforce Exchange, a local government agency whose focus is connecting people seeking employment with companies offering employment. They post job openings for free, and Parnell is also exploring creating apprentice programs and reimbursement for training. Jacob sees the staff as key to his positive experience: “They encourage us to express our feelings and help us not to feel shy. We can tell them anything if we’re upset.”

It’s been quite a year for everyone at Day Options. Parnell and the whole staff are excited to see folks getting back out there and building their connections and friendships.


Fun and Friendship Make a Great Day