Our Cloman house officially opened on moving day back on April 28, 2022. It is one of three houses opened after the decision was made to close the Victoria Road home serving 12 individuals, to create smaller more intimate home settings for four people in each of three new houses. After years of planning, and in response to the growing understanding that people often thrive best in smaller homes, the houses were bought and remodeled, staff teams were assembled, and the houses were opened.
Advanced Assistant Program Manager, Mel, remembers that day fondly, “I will never forget that day, it’s like the gates of heaven opened.”
She recalls being so excited for Pao, Michelle, Shirley, and Dan to be able to call this beautiful house their home. Mel has been with Living Well for 25 years and says about her time here, “It doesn’t feel like work, it is incredible.” Her giddy excitement for the people she cares for makes it clear that the houses we have are more than houses, they are homes— and the people within them are like family.
The best way to get to know our homes is to meet the people who make them special. You know a little about Mel, now meet the people who live there.
Pao, who is turning 30 this year, is the youngest in the house. He has been with Living Well since 2014. He is a happy guy with an ever-present smile who lights up when he gets out and goes on adventures. He loves movies, coffee shops, traveling, chocolate and Spiderman. When he sees someone grab the car keys, he knows he is about to do something fun. But it wasn’t always this way for Pao. Mel remembers, “When Pao came to us, he was very shy. We would give him things and he wasn’t sure if he could take them. Being around people was new to him. He was timid and scared, and it showed.” He had lived for years secluded from others where he was not part of the greater community. The first time he saw a grocery store he marveled at all the colors and options that were available to him.
It took a bit, but with supportive staff, regular occupational therapy and embracing his new community, Pao has built a family of support around him. The staff treat him like family, he is friends with the people he lives with, and his life is as vibrant as all the colors in that grocery store.
Michelle, also known as Shelly, will soon celebrate her 45th birthday, and is the newest to join the crew as she moved in to Victoria Road before the all moved over to Cloman. She loves the house and has made it her home since day one. Every other Saturday she bakes treats for the house, usually cookies or cakes. A few weeks ago, it was strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate chip cookies are house favorites! Shelly pulls up a recipe, sends it to Mel who prints it out and gets the ingredients. Then she fills the house with the smell of freshly baking desserts, and shares the sweets with her house.
Shelly is family oriented, and her sister is her guardian. They go to church every other Saturday, and Shelly meets her sister there, taking metro mobility. They also spend holidays together with their other siblings as well. She is centered and calm, but will confidently advocate for her needs and tell you what she wants. Quiet nature aside, she LOVES a colorful first impression. You will spot Shelly right away by her signature colorful hair. Always supportive, her sister’s friend dyes Shelly’s hair for her whenever needed.
Shirley is next up. She is in the young 70s and has been with Living Well since 1987, moving in after leaving one of the last state institutions to close. Her initial transition was hard, as life in the institutions was about as you’d expect, without much attention or extra care provided. They were not fun places, and she was understandably sheepish at first. But with incredible and consistent support from caregivers and her fabulous case manager, Maggie, over time she reconnected with family and her sister, and her life improved dramatically. She has built a lovely relationship with her sister who visits often, where they chat and reminisce about their childhood.
When Shirley was younger, she loved to travel and went on trips to Hawaii, Orlando, many casino weekends at Mystic Lake, and weekends in Duluth. She was very active. Retirement brings her joy now, she is a different, quieter person. She is a true retiree and is fully enjoying her down time. She likes movies, and particularly loves drama and animated stories, the new Spiderman story and rom coms are favorites. And she enjoys going out to dinner.
Dan is also in his 70s and is the patriarch of the home. He is also a bit of a celebrity, known by many, as he is an accomplished artist. You may remember seeing him in the KSTP news story featuring Dan and his art show held at the Living Well offices in partnership with MSS last March. His work showcases his love of color and ability to tell a story through art. His muse has always been his wife Sally, who sadly died a few years ago, but who will forever inspire his artistry. They were married in 1979 and four decades of marriage provide a rich history of inspiration for him.
Dan has a vibrant circle of friends and supporters, and a rich social life. He loves chicken wings and beer, going to church every weekend, where he is a greeter, with his friend Lisa from MSS, and being a vibrant part of the community. His brother-in-law visits every other weekend, and every Saturday afternoon he becomes a bit of a teenager and will sit on his iPad checking in with all of friends. It would appear not all screen time is bad! Dan is quite frankly sunshine—he lights up any room he is in.
Program Manager, Sam, has been with Living Well 28 years, and like Mel has a soft spot for caring for others. He says, “This work comes from the heart. Caring is a part of our stables. We want people who come here to know we care, and to be a part of this special pace you have to care above all else.” Mel and Sam have an easy-going familial relationship and get along like siblings. They are a well-oiled machine, and each brings a different set of skills that make the home special. Over time they have built an incredible team: Sunday, with Living Well 10 years; Sunday, back for a year and was previously with Living Well for nine years; Dolphine, 5 years; Jamar (Mar), three years, Anissa, two years, and the newest team members, Jessica, two months, and Geri, one month.
Sam considers Cloman a peaceful place, saying, “The folks here, and in this house, have arrived. This house is a dream come true.” Even before it was lived in this house was a star, as it was featured in a video put together to explain to our supporters what details are needed to build a dream group home. You can watch that video here.