Beth takes hold of her personal bowling ball, clutching it tightly. Its swirling design of bright blues and purples is as colorful as the forty-two-year-old’s personality.
She steps onto the wooden floor alongside her fellow residents from Lanier and Mercer Homes. She lifts her arm back and then thrusts the ball forward. It speeds down the lane knocking over several of the white pins.
Beth isn’t particularly pleased with her first attempt, but onlookers would never know it. Her smile beams as she scoops up her ball to try again. Beth approaches her life with the same enthusiasm.
Lanier Home has been Beth’s “home” since 2009. The group home for women is a part of Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Developmental Disabilities Ministry. Its counterpart, Mercer Home for men, sits beside Lanier Home on a 3.47-acre piece of property in Sanford.
Jane Willett-Cromer, a resident of the nearby town of Gulf and mother of John Willett, a special needs adult who lives at Mercer Home, gifted the property to BCH under the banner of Willett Ministries – named in honor of her late husband. The gift made it possible for John, Beth and the other residents to have the homes they need.
Beth has lived in group homes most of her life. But that did not make moving to Lanier Home easy. “It was scary when I first came,” she admits. “Change is real tough on me.”
Today, Beth says she does better adjusting to change. She has the stability of living with the exact same group of ladies for the past five years. Beth also gives credit to her live-in care givers.
“Barbara (Hertzog) and Janet (Littleton) have gotten me through good times and bad times,” she says. “When change gets me down, Janet gets me out of it. She makes me laugh.”
Beth enjoys laughing and being social. The relationships with her care givers and the residents are something she holds dear. It is something she never had growing up.
The close connections she cherishes extend beyond the doorstep of Lanier Home and into the Sanford community. Beth is president of the local chapter of the Aktion Club, a Kiwanis-supported program for developmentally disabled adults. She volunteers at the Stevens Center which provides support to individuals with disabilities by involving them community opportunities.
During the weekdays, Beth attends classes and works at Lee County Industries (LCI), another community outlet for educational, vocational and employment opportunities. Through LCI, Beth is working towards receiving her GED.
“I did not receive a high school diploma,” she explains, “so getting my GED is very important to me. It’s going to feel good when I hold it in my hands.”
Beth and her fellow residents attend First Baptist Church in Sanford. The church provides outstanding outreaches to special needs adults through their Sunday School’s “Love Class” and Wednesday evening “SonShine” classes. Beth will be singing as a part of the church’s special needs worship service in March for National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
“I love my church staff,” Beth beams.“They’re pretty special and go through a lot with us.”
Beth knows beyond any doubt that she can count on her community friends and paticularly the ladies and staff she lives with at Lanier Home.
“I think of them as my family,” she concludes.
Learn more about Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina's Developmental Disabilities Ministry at www.hereismyhome.org.