Board games, TV shows and “Home Alone” movie marathons have kept ADEC’s group home clients entertained and occupied during Winter Storm Ion, which hit Sunday and is keeping northern Indiana in a state of snow emergency through Tuesday. The bone-chilling temperatures and heavy snowfall made driving dangerous and some roads impassable, forcing staff on duty at client houses to sit tight until relief could arrive.
For Christina Hanover-White at Park Side group home in Dunlap, south of Elkhart, IN, that meant working consecutive shifts with only short breaks in between, but she didn’t mind. “These ladies here at Park Side are pretty important to us,” she said. “They’re family.”
The seven women who live in the house – an eighth was away visiting family for the holidays – made the best of being cooped up by watching television, playing board games and helping with household chores. Normally on weekdays, all eight would have left the house to go to work at ADEC Industries or to attend one of ADEC’s day programs. But because of the storm, ADEC cancelled its day programs, suspended transportation and closed ADEC Industries two days in a row.
“Everything is nice and relaxed, like a weekend day,” said Christina, who was working with only one other staff, down from the normal contingent.
Over at Middlebury Men group home in Middlebury, IN, east of Elkhart, Fred Todd worked alone. “I’m the only one who could come in,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to get out of my complex.” The eight men who live in the house were going a little stir crazy, said Fred, but he kept them busy with chores, games and videos. “A lot of routines are out of whack,” he explained, “and for our guys, that can be stressful.”
In his 24 years working in direct support for ADEC, Fred can’t remember the agency closing programs two days in a row. “This is unusual,” he said.
At the Foster Avenue group home in Elkhart, where some clients require more assistance, five staff made it in for their shifts Monday. “A couple showed up we didn’t expect,” said Pam Medford, who worked second and third shifts on Sunday and returned Monday to do it again. “I’m an overnighter, so I will be here until morning,” she said late Monday afternoon. “There will be two of us here overnight. I’d rather there be enough people here than not enough.”
The road leading to the house had not been plowed, she said, so getting there was rough. But inside, the mood was warm. “We’re doing great,” she said. “They’ve had good meals” – taco bake and Jello pudding pie was on the menu for Monday’s supper – “and we’re keeping them busy with crafts and activities.” One client used his day off to watch a “Home Alone” movie marathon, something he hadn’t had time to do before.
“The guys are doing well,” said Pam. “At least we’ve got people here. Once we get the street open, we’ll be doing even better.”
The story was similar at each of ADEC’s 14 group homes in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties. Dedicated direct support staff made sure each shift was covered before clocking out for the day, even if that meant overtime, double shifts or taking short breaks before returning to work again. For many, it meant braving snow-covered roads to get to work, knowing once there, they might not be able to leave for a while.
“We love what we do. That’s what we’re here for,” said Christina.