Jodi Taylor, ADEC guardian advocate, teared up as she remembered her first experiences as a DSP at Hawthorne Group Home 25 years ago.
“It was new, [the clients] were children and it was so hands on,” Jodi said. “I remember one girl would just stand in front of doors and wait for someone to open it. So we made it her goal to open a door. For years, every time she wanted to go through a door, we’d do hand-over-hand – every single time. Then one day, just out of the blue, she opened a door. It was a celebration I’ll never forget. Just a celebration of joy, because it was such a simple thing, but it took her two years. When we celebrated like that, she understood what she had accomplished.”
A friend had told Jodi she thought ADEC would be a good fit for her since it was such an active job. Jodi came in as a DSP at Hawthorne Group Home, ADEC’s home for little girls with disabilities. The girls ranged in ages from 4-12 when Jodi started working there. After a few years, the manager position came open and Jodi stepped in to manage this growing home.
During this time, Jodi watched the girls grow by leaps and bounds. Stephanie Lewis took her first steps, and Jodi “saw Steph’s whole life change in that moment.” She saved a girl’s life with the Heimlich maneuver. She sent her girls off to school where they would eventually walk the stage at graduation.
It was time for a change after spending several years working at Hawthorne. Jodi took a new position with Community Employment, working one-on-one with a client who was part of a short-lived vending machine program ADEC offered.
From there, Jodi started working as a DSP at Building Two. When the YMCA location opened, she received the team leader position. “That was a fun experience because it was community-based. We were using their full facility – pool and gym included.”
Over the years, Jodi had observed the ADEC’s Guardianship program, but she never thought of herself in that role until a job was posted in November 2008.
“I had always thought, ‘what an interesting job,’” Jodi shared. “So I went for it, and surprisingly, I got it. And I had the opportunity to have the best boss ever – Cary Kelsey.”
For nearly 10 years now, Jodi has advocated for her clients and supported them through the toughest parts of their lives. She takes this responsibility very seriously.
“End of life things are so huge,” Jodi said. “That radius of helping people make decisions. It’s a heavy responsibility, and it’s working with the team to make the best decision for that person. It’s such a privilege to be the person that’s there that’s their voice. It feels like such a real privilege.”
One of Jodi’s proudest guardianship moments came a few years ago. She was the guardian for a man named Robert who had a traumatic brain injury and lived in a nursing home. Robert was sarcastic and loved silly hats and gambling.
Jodi worked with Robert and a staff member to save his personal spending money so he could plan a trip to the casino in New Buffalo. He had the best day, and he just couldn’t stop talking about it afterward.
Robert died unexpectedly a few months later. “I was so glad to do something that mattered for him at the end of his life,” Jodi said.
Looking back over her career, Jodi has done a little of everything at ADEC, and she feels she’s found the perfect spot for her.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point in my life,” Jodi said. “Initially, I shed tears every day on my way home from Hawthorne. I just thought, ‘I’m not cut out for this.’ But it was the staff. They were so good. I thought, ‘I’m going to do what they do.’ Then you fall in love with the clients and the rest is history.”