Building Relationships, One Thursday at a Time

Building Relationships, One Thursday at a Time

October 12, 2018
Glenmeadow volunteer Danny McLean with staff and residents

Dan “Danny” McLean wheels through Glenmeadow’s front doors every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. with his aide, Gary Smith, at his side. Mary Gleason is there to greet him with, “Hi Danny, how are you?”

“Hi, Mary,” Danny types without fail on his LiteWriter, a device he uses to communicate. “How are you?”

A 27-year-old East Longmeadow resident, Danny has cerebral palsy and is on the autism spectrum. He has been volunteering with us for roughly 10 years, spending an hour with Mary each Thursday to help with several tasks in the dining room.

The arrangement has benefitted both Danny and Mary as well as Glenmeadow residents and staff.

“He really looks forward to going,” says Sharon McLean, Danny’s mother. “Danny likes the structure. He likes having a place to go where he feels needed, and he likes the repetition of the routine. That’s very beneficial. It’s the same place, the same time, the same people. And the residents communicate with him, too.”

When Danny arrives on a Thursday, he says the first order of business is the snack he has come to rely on: Two chocolate chip cookies and a “red Coke soda,” as Danny calls it.

The work that follows has Danny folding our turquoise cloth napkins—the colors change with the season—and putting the dining room’s receipts in alphabetical order by resident’s last name, filing them away into a Pendaflex folder with pockets for each letter.

While on task, Danny uses his LiteWriter’s keyboard to communicate with Mary about such things as his visits to the beach and ocean, his brother’s military service, or upcoming weekend plans.

“I enjoy that relationship,” Mary says. “It’s relaxing to sit for a little while, whether it’s to fold napkins or organize receipts, and just have a conversation. And Danny’s a delight to see.”

Mary isn’t the only one who appreciates Danny’s presence. Our staff and residents know Danny well and enjoy greeting him and making conversation. Several send Danny cards at holiday time.

Sharon and Danny got connected to Glenmeadow through a local agency that helps people with disabilities find jobs and volunteer positions. Multicultural Community Services in Springfield arranges for Danny to get one-on-one job coaching with his aide Gary.

“When Danny first started at Glenmeadow, it was hard to find places willing to take someone with special needs,” Sharon remembers. “Right from the beginning, Glenmeadow has been fabulous to him.”

Anne Miller, vice president of operations at Glenmeadow, says it’s important to Glenmeadow to build relationships in the community and provide opportunities.

“We are very grateful for the work that Dan does each week at Glenmeadow and also for his cheerful presence,” says Anne. “I know that our staff and our residents enjoy seeing Dan every Thursday, and I am pleased that Glenmeadow is able to offer him this chance to have a fulfilling task each week.”

Mary has been a hostess in our dining room and café for 16 years, and she sees the organization’s dedication to people in the community as well as to its staff.

“I love Glenmeadow—from the residents, to the employees, to the management,” Mary says. “It’s a great place to work. It feels like family between everyone. We all work together as a team, and it feels great to come here and feel the love all day.”

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