I have a confession. It's super difficult for me to celebrate. Ever since Covid happened, it's almost as if the person in me who loved parties and getting friends together died. I mean, of course I celebrate my kids' birthdays and we celebrate holidays, but it's still a challenge for me.
So, when I got the IRS approval for Family First Villages to be recognized as a tax deducible charity, something that I didn't believe would happen for another 8-12 months, I was shocked. Instead of celebrating, I cried. And then I wondered what in the world I was going to do.
Normally, I'm a prepared person. But the approval arriving early left me feeling confused. I had many goals to achieve before we got approval, and that left me with "Where should I go now?"
However, the day after I got the letter I was leaving on a trip to visit my sister, Amy, in Virginia so that my kids could have cousin time and I could pick Annie up from her vacation. We had such a wonderful time. Then, we caravanned back to Charleston, SC where we grew up and took our kids Downtown. We had the absolute best day with friends!
When we got back to Atlanta, we took everyone (including Doc and Grammy) to The Varsity and the Coca-Cola Museum. It was such a fun experience, and something that not all of us had done before. As we were driving home, I realized that this was my celebration. This trip, this family, the friends that have helped me along the way, this is the way that I can celebrate right now. I am thankful!
When you deal with special needs in your family on a daily basis, it's super important to have a strong support group. We haven't found that within our community yet, but we do have it within our family unit.
We are so grateful that Annie can take vacation every summer with our younger sister, Amy, and her family in Virginia. This gives Annie a chance to care for and love on her nieces, and it gives my parents and my family a rest from Annie's daily needs.
Not everyone has a strong support system, which is one of the reasons we're creating Family First Villages. Families in the special needs community need support because it truly does take a village of people caring for these special people in our lives.
Family First Villages is still in the beginning/planning phase of starting. We have filed our 501C3 paperwork. While we wait for IRS approval, we are continuing the work of meeting families in our community and learning more about how we can help in the area where we currently live.
As part of our PHASE ONE goals, we plan to open a Family Entertainment Complex so that we can provide job training and jobs for special needs adults in our community. We look forward to working with neighbors and families on our dreams! And, we're excited to be able to offer long-term support to special needs families in Forsyth County.
Annie wanted me to say "Thank you to everyone that donated to Family First Villages!"
#skipstarbucks is still going on this month. Instead of heading to Starbucks once this month, donate your $5 to help bring dignity through jobs and a safe living environment to adults with intellectual disabilities at https://www.givesendgo.com/familyfirstvillages. We can't do this without your support! Thank you!
Skip Starbucks Challenge: Every Friday I drive Annie to the store so she can shop for groceries. I do this because she can't drive. I don't mind driving her to the store because I love her, but I want so much more for her life. I want her to be able to get to the store on her own. I want her to be as independent as possible, which is one of the many reasons why we're starting Family First Villages together.
So, here's our #SkipStarbucks challenge to you: Would you consider skipping your Starbucks purchase once this month and redirect that $5 to help us create a place where adults with intellectual disabilities can live in safe micro-communities? You can learn more at https://www.givesendgo.com/familyfirstvillages.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us already!
As I was thinking yesterday about Mother's Day and the many ways people celebrate moms, I had to pause to reflect on how my family is different from many.
My mom gave birth to 3 girls. As my mom has aged, I have taken on somewhat of a parenting role to my sister, Annie. I'm an extra mom to her, but I also have 2 children of my own. Annie has always parented my kids in her own way. My mom has also parented my kids well. This is us!
This is how we live, love, survive, fail, and thrive. We can't do this alone, so we don't. But so many families struggle alone. We want to bring Family First Villages to the special needs community in Forsyth so that families can experience the type of love and support we need every day. We hope you'll join us and share our vision with your families and friends.
If you're caring for a person today who is disabled in any way, you understand when I say that every moment they get to enjoy their favorite thing is the absolute best part of their day. Annie's favorite food in the world is ice cream. If you say, "Want to get some ice cream?" she's in the car before anyone else. I mean, just look at her face in this photo... sheer joy!
As a care giver, it's sometimes hard to find much joy in simple things like ice cream because even the simple comes with a challenge. But this moment right here, this is joy.
My beginning starts with Annie. She was born 18 months before me, but we were raised as twins. Annie was born with an intellectual disability.
Over the years we have fallen into 2 different groups that are marginalized by society:
1. People with different types of intellectual & learning abilities
2. Siblings who care for them
One day last year I woke up and realized that I am not going to be physically able to care for my sister forever. As I began to research the living options that were available in my area I realized there was a severe gap between people who can afford care and people who cannot.
I began to ask myself, "What if? What if life and living conditions could be better for people like Annie? What if? What if life and living could be better for people like me?"
So, I began the journey of dreaming up Family First Villages. I want a place where Annie can live affordably, work in a job that she loves, and have friends. I don't want her to be isolated from the community. I want her to be part of our community, and for the community to be educated about the societal issues that exist where we live.
I hope you'll join us as we take on this huge, but life-giving dream!