When visiting Living Well homes, it becomes clear in a hurry that each house has its own personality and that the people who live and work within the home are what make them truly special. Determining who lives where generally means looking for compatible personalities and balancing the level of care. Which often means group homes end up with houses having people with similar needs. With 37 houses and 300 people who call Living Well home, or utilize our services in their own homes, it is safe to say we have seen a few common factors when it comes to finding the right fit for roommates.

Some of our houses have a mix of people who require a higher level of care, including the need to grind food and the use of wheelchairs, mobility devices and adaptive tech for communication; others have people with more mobility and the ability to effectively chat, express their needs and advocate for themselves living within the home. But both groupings still need 24/7 care to ensure that people are safe, happy, and well cared for. A third group would be individuals working towards independence who need a little help, but can manage day to day basics, who need guidance but not full care. It’s a delicate dance to get the fit right and find groups who will be best suited to live together and share staff and experiences with. There is a spectrum of care in the lives of people living with varied medical needs, and just like the rest of us, where we live, and finding people who appreciate and support us, is key.

From right: Program Manager Jamie Randall, Leo, Rob, Corbin and Assistant Program Manager, Jenneh Kebe.

Our Southcrest home in Edina is unique for a few reasons. At the top of that list is that it doesn’t necessarily fit the mold, and the people who live there have varying levels of need. Rob, Corbin, Katie and Leo are as unique and individual as any group of friends, with the exception of two of them need greater amounts of support. And what makes it extra special is the seamless way Leo and Katie nurture and support Corbin and Rob. While the group over here came together organically when Rob and Corbin’s parents decided to buy a home and build a safe environment for their children, once together it was undeniable that they work as a team and support and love each other. Peggy Crolick, Rob’s mom, says, “One of the things we love the most is that the kids get along so well, they just really love each other. It makes the house tick really well.” Adding, “It is heartwarming to watch.”

To know the home and fully understand the dynamic, is to know who lives there. Corbin is a gentle soul with the best laugh you will ever hear. She has a kind touch and will lightly stroke your hand as you sit beside her. Her smile is genuine and her silliness almost infections. You cannot help but smile in her presence, as she has a calming effect on the room and is a pure delight to share space with. And even though she does not have many words; she has a way about her that will soothe others when they are having a long day. She is joy personified. Corbin likes stuffed animals, sorting objects into colors, and walking the mall with her friends. She loves to be with other people and she and Leo are great friends, if he is going somewhere she wants to go as well.

Leo is the talker of the group, always engaged in the conversation and a true leader. He loves being around people and getting to know them. He helped with this article not only by participating in the group interview, but by proofing it before publication. He is a dedicated volunteer for food charities and spends time at Feed My Starving Children every two weeks, packing meals throughout the pandemic. He also helps deliver Meals on Wheels. Leo is very active and enjoys training with his younger brother for tennis with the Special Olympics, where he also participates in basketball and floor hockey. He loves trips to the dollar store with his housemates to look around and discover new treasures. Leo also enjoys walking and sometimes helps with shoveling the driveway but freely admits when it gets too cold that he will leave snow removal to the pros. Leo, we all hear ya on that one—Minnesota winters can be brutal.

Uncle Rob’s Pizza Party, produced in partnership with Rob Crolik’s family and friends.

Rob, like Corbin, does not speak much. While some use communication devices to communicate, he uses gestures, signs, and eye movements to get what he needs. It is not uncommon for him to crawl up to a table, grab a seat and join the convo with his smile leading the way. Rob loves to eat and enjoys pretty much all foods. His favorite thing to eat however are bananas, and you will always find some at the house. He also loves water and would happily splash water and eat all day. His sister Jessica  is an advocate and even put together a colorful book for children to learn more about interacting with people with disabilities. The book, “Uncle Rob’s Pizza Party,” is colorful with tons of incredible pictures, and expertly showcases that while people may be disabled, or look different from what many consider normal, that with a little understanding and knowledge, we will all become naturally more inclusive.

Katie LOVES to be outside and spends as much time in the yard as possible. She hangs out there all year long, building snow castles in the winter and playing yard games in the summer. She likes basketball and loves trick shots—she does a great backwards shot right in the hoop, both back handed and one handed. She also golfs with Leo. Always happy to be in the fresh air, Katie is an ambassador for Living well she waves and says hello to neighbors as they pass. She is kind and energetic and full of energy. If you are inside and looking for her, get up, walk outside, and find her in her happy place outside in the yard.

When asked what makes Southcrest special, Program Manager, Jamie Randall, says of the house, “You know, I will always say it’s just saying hi and seeing the smiles on their faces. They are happy to see me, and I am happy to see them. If I am having a tough day, I can go have a five minute convo with anyone here and I just know I will feel better.” Assistant Program Manager, Jenneh Kebe, adds, “I just love these guys and their parents are wonderful.” The house is filled with people who are happy to live and work there, and it shows.

Another thing that makes it special, besides the connections and personalities, is that the home itself is owned by two sets of parents versus the company owning the home. This means we do not pay for day upkeep, rather have the home staffed 24/7, providing the services needed to care for all who live there. The benefit of this scenario for us is the ability to focus on care alone, and for the families it is a way to have a direct investment in the property, and their children. Not all can afford this arrangement or have the funds to buy a home, but it showcases there are more creative ways to find care and provide services for families with children or friends with disabilities.

What makes Living Well homes special is simple, they are homes filled with love and kindness. Corbin, Rob, Katie and Leo have a wonderful home, and have built incredible friendships with each other. They all have deeply involved family who visit often, and good relationships with the staff. Peggy Crolick says the staff is exceptional—wonderful, warm, loving, and caring. And she is so grateful they were able to get everyone out during the pandemic, making life a bit less stressful for everyone. It really is a delicate balance to find the right fit, and this place has it all.

For more info on Rob’s sister Jessica’s company, please visit www.lovevery.com. Front step photo by Maren Caruso, courtesy of Lovevery.