In the summer of 2020, four men living in a group home got some bad news. It wasn’t the pandemic. The organization that was supporting them was closing all the programs on their rehabilitation center campus.

Their families were shocked. Janice and Richard Burt thought everything had been settled for their son, Clint. Janice remembers, “In our mind it was going to be where Clint lived out the rest of his life.” The families worried that getting a new home, new housemates, new staff, and a new community all at once would be overwhelming for their loved ones.

One guardian, Autumn Maura, was so worried about her uncle Julio that she asked the case manager if she would have to take him home herself, “If we don’t find a good place for him, then I’ll have to do it.” Alex Wilder’s parents, Tom and Amy, were concerned that their son Alex wouldn’t be able to handle it. “He was losing his home of 25 years. His whole world was changing.”

The choices available to them in New Hampshire were more limited than they would have liked. Shared Living is the primary model for residential supports, and the families weren’t comfortable making that leap.

After exploring several options, the families chose Aspire to create the new supports. Their choice was based on Aspire’s commitment to keeping the men together and to hiring the staff from the former program. Honoring these important relationships was a top priority for the families. The families also noticed that Aspire employees focused on their loved ones as people with likes, dislikes, hopes and goals, not just diagnoses.

The local area agency, Gateways Community Services, offered the use of a handicap accessible home, Isaac Frye, that was standing empty. Gateways agreed to renovate the home, and Aspire started onboarding the staff. A move date was set for November 30, 2020. To everyone’s great pleasure, the men took to their new home right away and settled in.

They began exploring what the property has to offer. There’s room to do their own thing or to hang out together in the living room or the “man cave.” They help cook alongside the staff. The men like to walk or ride down the long driveway together to collect the mail. The gazebo and the yard are favorite spots for birdwatching. They tried fishing in the pond on the property (but there wasn’t much to catch).

One year in, Isaac Frye really feels like home. In a first for both of them, Alex and Clint are both enjoying visits with their parents at the staffed residence. This has been a welcome surprise. In the past, they were both eager to head to the family home and to lead their parents out the door.

The pandemic has limited community access, but Samantha Broderick, assistant project director at Aspire reports, they’re adapting. “We’ve been able to get back into the community safely, adapted to COVID like everyone else.” Bowling is a popular choice for a fun afternoon. Julio likes to go to KFC for his favorite mashed potatoes and gravy. Autumn, Julio’s niece, appreciates that each of them can go where he wants in his own time: “I don’t feel like his day is organized around everybody else’s schedule.” The town’s recycling center is an unexpected social connection. Samantha notes, “The man who goes twice a week loves it. This being a small town everyone’s like, ‘he’s here!’ when they show up.”

Sadly, the year wasn’t without its hard times. One of the housemates passed away unexpectedly last spring. The guys have bounced back since then, as have the staff, but it took time and healing. They remember their friend with a smile-- he was an energetic and unforgettable presence. They are now preparing to welcome a new housemate.

The families are quick to credit Aspire employees for the year’s successes. Tom Wilder notes, “You have good people.” The supports the staff get matter, too. According to Autumn Maura, “The staff are able to do what they always wanted to do for our family, but in a more efficient way.” Janice Burt reports that having a behavior analyst present at the home has made a difference, “Knowing that they have that resource and are willing to use it-- It’s a good thing.”

To celebrate their first year, Isaac Frye hosted a virtual party on November 30. It was a chance for everyone to connect and reflect on a very full twelve months. The individuals, their families, and all the employees have been great additions to the Aspire community. Congratulations to everyone on Isaac Frye’s first anniversary!

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Making the Move Together