A special place for those with special needs
WAYNESBURG – The spirit of King David is alive and well in West Waynesburg, thanks to the efforts of Scott and Theresa Roberts of Rogersville, who wanted something more for their special-needs daughter, Olivia, than sitting at home after graduating from high school.
2nd Sam 9 is the name they chose for the day program they created that is now open two days a week in a little white church in West Waynesburg. The story of Mephibosheth in II Samuel, Chapter 9, describes how an individual with a disability was given a place of honor in the home of King David as an act of kindness.
At 2nd Sam 9, that act of kindness is alive and well for the young adults with varying developmental disabilities who come here from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m to socialize, laugh and lunch together, volunteer in the community, make music, create art, plant flowers and even take road trips together.
A long stretch of tables and chairs is where the action happens, from morning until lunch and beyond. There’s plenty of room for projects and the good vibration of being at home with friends is in the air.
“My daughter Megan loves coming here. She’s with people her own age and there’s so much to do,” Carol Young of Center Township said. “The problem is our kids love going to school and being around people but when they graduate, all their friends go on to college or get on with their lives and they get left behind. When Megan graduated, we worked hard to keep her involved in the community. They love having her visit at the Waynesburg Senior Center, but here, she’s with her peers. Right now, we have between six and eight girls, and we’d love to have some boys join us. This is a wonderful place to socialize.”
When Megan’s service dog, Johnny Cash, died in March she had friends to share her loss with, Young noted. “On the days we’re coming here ,she wakes up and is so excited. We’re hoping to be open three days a week soon.”
“I fell in love with Olivia when I first met her at church and I’m starting to work with service dogs through the prison because I fell in love with Johnny Cash,” board treasurer Connie Hart of Ruff Creek said. “This program is free because of the donations we receive. When I first became treasurer I thought ‘Free? This is crazy!’ But it’s a blessing the way the donations come in when we need them.”
Retired teacher Lorraine Handley is part of the team of cheerful mentors that helps teacher Julie Judy manage the many activities that are ongoing throughout the day. Personal aides are also part of the crew and having visitors in for lunch is hardly a problem.
Greene County Supports Coordinator Desheryl Yesenosky looked up from her place at the table and beamed as she tapped her notebook. “I love this place. They’re very interactive and it’s a wonderful social experience.”
“Everyone likes having a buddy so some girls from Waynesburg University are coming to hang out with the ones who don’t have an aide,” Young said. Last August, university students spent their annual day of volunteering cleaning, scrubbing walls, staining the ramp and generally helping organize. “Some of them came back and made us their volunteer project for the year,” Yesenosky said.
Being part of the community is the guiding force behind many projects.
“We help with the food distribution at the fairgrounds every fourth Thursday and we have a booth at Relay for Life. This year, our goal was $1,000, and we raised $1,500,” Young said.
Another project that is helping Megan deal with loss is in the works and making good things happen.
Lt. Col. Cephus Lee Roupe, son of Megan’s aide, Caroline Roupe, died unexpectedly March 2, 2012.
“When Cephie met Megan they clicked,” Roupe said. “He had just been made colonel so he gave Megan his major’s hat and made her honorary Major Megan. She loved it when he came to visit.”
“We have been honoring his memory in many ways,” Young said. “We had a blood drive at the university on April 2 and there’s a bill sponsored by Pam Snyder to name the new bridge in New Freeport the Lt. Col. CL Roupe Memorial Bridge.”
House Bill 1972 passed March 11. “Now all we need is Senate approval. We will have our regular 2nd Sam 9 program at our home on July 3, with a short ceremony and the balloon release in his memory.”