A mid-round move from Colordao to Missouri was weird, most other teams were traveling only a few hours, not 900 miles, but I seem to never be in line with what everyone else is doing, so it's cool. The team and I packed our bags on a Sunday afternoon, ready for Monday departure with a one night stop at campus scheduled. We were meant to return to pick up some materials before hitting the road Tuesday morning, but mother nature had different plans in store for us. After being warned about them, and then reading as the main character runs her car off the road in a Kansas ice storm in "While I'm Falling" I decided to check the forecast. "A winter mess" was predicted for Tuesday, stretching from Colorado to Missouri, in essence our entire drive. I contacted our unit leader and it was agreed, for safety concerns, and my mental, the team was allowed to stay on campus an extra day. I appreciated having a day 'off', time to sort my life out before packing it up again to move cross country, and as much as a few other denied it, I think they appreciated it as well, plus getting to see "Mother Earth" was an added bonus.
The cargo and van were packed Tuesday evening and by 8 am Wednesday we were on our way, ready for two days in the vehicles, 860 miles and countless hours. The drive was pretty simple, the first day consisting of 465 miles on I-70, with very little excitement, unless wind farms count? We spent a night in Junction City at a slightly suspicious Super 8, but we did get lucky and had the chance to see Earth 1, a team currently serving at Milford State Park. The second day was just about as exciting as the first, although we did get to drive through Topeka, Kansas City and Colombia, exciting it was. Actually that came in the last 10 miles of our journey, traffic slowed to a standstill and 100 meters before our exit oncoming lanes were filled with emergency response vehicles. We later discovered a 14 year old girl had fallen (jumped?) from the overpass bridge, word is still out on her condition. Maybe it's something to do with my team, we just so happened to arrive at the site in Lyons 10 minutes after this incident occurred a few weeks ago .
Once we arrived at our new lodging, the cozy Comfort Inn, yes I'll be living in a hotel for the next 6 weeks, we were met by our sponsor Jennifer of Disability Resource Association (DRA). She welcomed us with a huge smile and small welcome packages, just in line with the type of communication and commitment they had began this process with. It was evident through Jennifer's greeting how excited this organization is to have been granted a team, and this energy was infectious, rubbing off on us all. After ensuring we were comfortable and had everything we needed, Jennifer left us to unpack and relax, with instructions to meet her at the DAR offices the following morning at 9 ( later than our normal work day, but who doesn't appreciate a slow first day).
The morning was a casual meeting with our sponsor, brief overview of the organization and what services they provide to the community. After only an hour with our sponsor I was blown away by the services DRA provides. Coming in I thought their main focus was on home modifications and affordable home builds, but they do so much more than that. They have five core services:
On top of this they have 20 other services, most of which are offered for free, and all of which have come into form based on a need voiced from the community. This was one of my favorite parts of the meeting, hearing the words "we saw a need and so we addressed it". Having recently completed a workshop on 'Asset based community development' it was cool to see this model in place and working. Some other services of note:
The offices of DRA are relatively new and have been built with Universal design in mind, hall and doorways are wide and have automatic options, counter tops are accessible and there are no steps at any of the entryways. After our orientation we toured the offices along with Bluff View apartments located just behind the office building. The apartment units were also built with universal design features, and are one of the affordable housing projects from DRA. Each apartment is a 2 bedroom, fully furnished and runs at only $450 per month. I'm sure in rural Missouri prices like these aren't impossible to find, but after touring one I wouldn't mind living here.
My fingers are crossed that the next six weeks continue as well as our first few hours have. Talking with the staff at DRA has me excited for the work we're going to be doing, and even beyond that, thinking ahead to my future and wondering if this isn't the line of work to be in. They say the money and jobs right now are in service of the elderly, as there are so many of them, so it's definitely something to think about. We also had the opportunity to meet a few different consumers, as DRA refers to them, and one in particular impressed the hell out of me. Greg lives at the Bluffview apartments and for the 10 minutes we were with him made enough "blind" jokes that I could tell he was my kind of guy. It wasn't until I got back to the Comfort Inn [home] that evening and read his story that I was even more impressed, I hope I have the opportunity to talk with him again in the future, I feel like he definitely has a lifetime of stories to tell, and jokes to go along with it.
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".