Reporter: Leon Cheong
Interviewees: Josephine Marlowe and JoAnn Dhuyvetter
Many California Bay Area residents may be fortunate enough to say that they have a welcoming home and comforting family to wake up to every morning. But for some, such a blessing cannot be taken for granted, especially for those who battle disabilities. Fortunately, we are seeing more and more resources like the California MENTOR Family Home Agency that provide assisted living arrangements for people with special needs.
California MENTOR is a program dedicated to reaching out to intellectually or developmentally disabled Californians and ensuring them the security of a nurturing family. However, this organization is no nursing home. Rather, California MENTOR goes above and beyond by recruiting trained and eligible Mentors. They are then selectively paired with disabled individuals to form tightly knit household units. This gives a personal approach to assisting those in need by providing them with a caretaker, a friend and a family.
JoAnn Dhuyvetter is just one of the many who have benefitted from being a part of the California MENTOR program. She lives with her Mentor Josephine Marlowe, who is a registered nurse. They currently are hosting and living with three foreign students who are learning English.
Life in the house of a California MENTOR is just like any other. Dhuyvetter and Marlowe have a regular routine that they go through everyday. “Monday through Friday is the same,” Marlowe said. “We wake up and [JoAnn] makes breakfast and I make her lunch. Then the bus comes and picks her up and takes her to the center. I work until 4 o’clock and then pick her up before we walk the dogs. Then I prepare dinner, we eat, and then we watch TV.” Marlowe makes sure that she is able to provide a comfortable and stable lifestyle that is supportive of Dhuyvetter’s needs. “Sometimes, we will go run errands to Costco for groceries or go out to eat dinner,” says Marlow.
Around the neighborhood, Dhuyvetter is a welcomed and active member of the community. “The people in the area are very nice to me,” Dhuyvetter said. “I feel engaged with everyone else.”
On Sundays, Dhuyvetter and Marlowe like spending the day at Great America. “Sometimes I get on the stage to dance,” Dhuyvetter said. “The audience loves it and they always ask for more.” When they go to Great America, Marlowe is reminded of their first visit together. “When we saw a show JoAnn was just full of joy,” Marlowe said.
California MENTOR recognizes that every person is unique and has different needs for nurturing and housing. Like other Mentors, Marlowe has been trained to determine the best way to make Dhuyvetter feel happy and welcome. “Both the agency and I are very flexible,” Marlowe said. “I won’t tell JoAnn what to do, I will only suggest what JoAnn should do. But she is not stubborn and she listens to me because she knows that I want the best for her. We’re very good together.” Dhuyvetter feels that the two of them are compatible. “Wherever she goes, I go,” Dhuyvetter said.
Above all, according to Marlowe, the best thing about California MENTOR is its professionalism. “They have family screening, backgrounds, fingerprinting, and everything to make sure that disabled people will be put into a good environment,” Marlowe said. “They do a detailed profiling process to make sure it’s a good fit. It’s very safe and professional.”
The California MENTOR initiative has been providing services to Bay Area residents with special needs, since its conception, in California in 1997, when the organization first began providing its family housing program. If you or someone you know is interested in receiving care or becoming a Mentor, call (650) 378-8575 for information.