NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — Although the pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to the lives and schedules for people across Northeast Ohio, the impact has been especially pronounced for those with developmental disabilities. Those challenges, however, have also created opportunities to make their community better.
On a Friday morning, the residents and staff members of Blossom Hill, a non-profit, long term residential care facility for those with developmental disabilities, filed into a large room full of school supplies, food and refreshments. Everyone was smiling.
And for good reason, too.
"During this COVID time, their life has changed dramatically. Our individuals are very used to routine. They are very used to their vocational activities," said Ron DeVerse, the program director at Blossom Hill. "You see a change in our individuals when their routine is broken. We thought of an idea, something to keep them busy... something constructive as well as something that could help the community."
Founded more than 50 years ago by a group of parents that did not want their children institutionalized, Blossom Hill provides intensive, high-quality care for more than 30 residents across multiple facilities. At Haven Home, the residential care facility in North Royalton, residents have been filling bags with school supplies and other materials for school children whose families have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deverse and North Royalton City Councilman Dan Langshaw came up with the idea to provide both the Blossom Hill residents and the city's school children with activities during the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
"There is a lot of doom and gloom but out of the coronavirus, there has been a lot of positivity. This is a prime example of this," Langshw said. "Everyone is just so excited about this. During the darkest times and even during a global pandemic, we can all come together and do really good stuff like this. We're in this together, even in a global pandemic, we're still finding ways to connect."
One resident in particular, Patience, has done the lion's share of the packing. Of the more than 160 bags that have been created, Patience alone has made more than a third of them. It's not hard to see why either.
"I enjoy it, really I do!" Patience said. "I love to do it."
For DeVerse, Just one glance at Patience's unbridled joy is enough of a reminder of why he got into this line of work.
"That's every day for me. That's why I'm here. That's why we're here. We love it. You have to be a special person to be in this field. Our individuals are very well taken care of," DeVerse said.
Councilman Langshaw said they are still accepting nominations for the Bags of Joy. Those interested in receiving one are asked to contact Langshaw directly.