Just one visit to Silver Lake, one of New Jersey MENTOR’s Community Living Residences, and you’re likely to find a small dance party in the living room, game night at the kitchen table, or residents laughing along to their favorite movie. You can bet that Ericka will be at the center of it all!
“Ericka’s known as the entertainer of the house,” says Rhonda, Home Manager for Silver Lake. “She’s got a ton of energy and this big-belly laugh that you can hear throughout the house. Ericka loves to get other ladies and staff involved in group activities and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Eleven years ago, Ericka’s life was turned upside down when her mother tragically lost her battle with cancer. Ericka, who has developmental disabilities and struggles with her vision and speech, relied on her mother for everything. When her mother passed away, Ericka was forced to leave the only home she had ever known and move in with cousins she had met only a few times.
Surrounded by unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar place, Ericka became easily irritated, had trouble sleeping and struggled to find her way around the house safely. Unfortunately, things only got worse when a fire destroyed the family’s home. For the first time in her life, Ericka was utterly alone until an emergency referral led her to one of New Jersey MENTOR’s Community Living Residences. Since then, Ericka has truly blossomed.
“Its hard to imagine that Ericka, who now greets everyone with a hug, was once so withdrawn that she rarely smiled or even made eye contact with staff members,” Rhonda added. “She’s come a long way since she first arrived at Silver Lake.”
Today, Ericka is full of life. With support from staff members, she learned how to improve her balance, become aware of her surroundings and protect herself from falls. Whether she’s following staff members to the kitchen to watch them cook or dancing around the house to her favorite Elvis tune, Ericka loves to be active throughout the day. She has also become a happier person and learned how to control her behaviors. When she first came to Silver Lake, Ericka’s traumatic past made it difficult for her to trust anyone and her fears often led to aggressive behavior.
Through constant reassurance from staff and a new sense of structure and stability, Ericka finally feels comfortable around others. She loves spending time watching movies with her housemates or going out shopping, and has formed deep bonds with staff members who she considers family.
“Ericka’s progress is amazing,” said Linda, a Direct Support Professional at New Jersey MENTOR’s Silver Lake residence. “She now understands what’s expected of her and has learned how to communicate her own needs to staff. We all know when Ericka wants to relax in her recliner, go for a ride in the van or have a glass of her favorite soda. She’s a part of our family.”
Ericka has truly experienced a transformation in New Jersey MENTOR’s Community Living Residence program. Silver Lake has given her a sense of belonging and a network of supportive people that have helped her reach new milestones. In the past 11 years, Ericka has become a vibrant and happy woman who loves to interact with others at home and in the community.