Whatever it Takes… Building a Home
Better Community Living, Inc. (BCL) provides homes to those with disabilities. However, there’s a unique level of compassion for those served by BCL. This mission is so important that accomplishing it often means doing whatever it takes – such as gutting a building and completely renovating it to meet an individual’s comfort, desires, and needs. Here is just one of BCL’s stories.
In 1996, both Kim and Faith were being served by BCL. They lived together in a home with two other individuals. However, the situation wasn’t always ideal. “Kim is very verbal,” says manager Leslie Lopes. “Some of the clients weren’t happy. She’d get bullied. Kim’s mother wanted her to be able to roam around the house and be who she is.” Leslie says that Kim’s mother then reached out to Tom Riley, BCL’s Executive Director. She sought approval for a new home and that was it.
The effort began to locate a new property and make it Kim’s new home. Even better, the home would include provisions to also bring her roommate Faith, whom she’d developed an easy friendship with. BCL quickly discovered a dentist’s office that was listed for sale. The agency bought it and renovated the entire building over the course of the next year.
“They knocked down everything,” Leslie said, noting that the entire house wasn’t just renovated, but also fully customized to both women’s needs. “We had a specialist come in to make the house more vision friendly,” said Leslie. “Kim has low vision and Faith is legally blind.” This impacted decisions like choosing certain colors to make objects more visible. Light walls allowed the women to see entrances better. The dark furniture also stands out stronger. In Faith’s bedroom, there’s a perfectly styled purple paint line, that you would think is a decoration. It allows her to find her way into her room easier.
Of course, Kim and Faith’s families were involved too. Kim’s mom and Faith’s guardian helped select all of the furniture – from the living room to each bedroom set. Eventually, the home was complete, both women moved in, and they have been living there ever since.
The renovations continue as BCL pledges to stay committed to the ladies’ needs. “Both of them are not very mobile, and Tom has done so much to help us with the mobility issues. He makes sure we have all the tools that they need to be very comfortable,” Leslie says as she points out high-tech lift systems in the bathroom and bedrooms. “Every need and want… he’s right there to make it happen.”
Today, the home remains bright and spacious. The furniture is modern. Everything is pristine. There’s plenty of room to roam, and the house is as cozy as any home one might want to move into. Plus, the women grow and learn there too. Beneath a flat screen TV in their living room is a long built-in desk. Two keyboards are hooked up so that both women can play music – a hobby they both greatly enjoy. The ladies live in a home that truly suits their needs and enhances their ability to grow. In fact, Kim and Faith have now been roommates for 30 years.
“BCL definitely takes care of them,” Leslie says with an air of gratitude. “Tom always makes sure they get what they need. All I have to do is say Hey, I need this…. and it appears like magic,” she says. Today, Leslie has been with the agency for decades. When she first started, she had just returned from military service and was simply looking for work. “I never expected to be here this long, but I ended up loving it. It’s knowing that we are making a difference in their lives. I’ve been a constant person for them,” she says. Finally, Leslie adds that she has grown too, in addition to helping both women to grow. “I was a person that kind of shied away from conversation. This job has taught me to be an advocate, to learn the needs of other people – to learn, and understand, and really advocate for them.”