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For group home managers, a surprise day of thanks

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ­- It takes a patient, loving and dedicated person to work with adults with disabilities.
Carolyn Corry, a home manager for Cabarrus County Group Homes, knows it. She’s worked at the Camelot home in Salisbury, located off Airport Road, since 2000.
“I’m a cook, a taxi driver, a mother, a sister, a nurse,” Corry said.
Home managers typically work seven-day shifts, with seven days off before returning to their assigned group home.
During their work weeks, they sleep at the group home and – depending on their residents’ ability levels – assist them with anything and everything.
Cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene – everything.
Other staff members assist residents in reaching personal and vocational goals.
“It’s just a caring job,” Corry said. “They care about us, and we care about them.”
It’s a job the staff has continued to do well in spite of challenges, director Ginger Pope said.
Her agency oversees group homes in Cabarrus and Rowan counties.
And, she said, “with all the cuts that have come about, and the threats of cuts, and no raises for several years, I have a lot of staff who go the extra mile.”
On a recent Friday, with a little help from local businesses, Pope and a couple of her administrative staff were able to give those staff members a special surprise.
While the residents were out at vocational training for the morning, Pope had staff members gather.
Some of them said they’d been told they were going to McDonald’s for breakfast.
What they weren’t expecting was a morning of fun, starting with bowling at Foxfire Lanes in Kannapolis.
Then, a carpool took them through the countryside to Saratoga Springs, an event venue near Mount Pleasant.
There, staff members and a rep from Southern Foods, the agency’s food distributor, had prepared a gourmet lunch donated by the company.
Instead of fast food, the staff chowed down on steak, baked potatoes, salad and cheesecake, served on the veranda overlooking a nearby lake.
“Surprised” doesn’t describe the emotion. Several were near tears at various points during the afternoon.
That was especially true as Pope stood to read thank-you messages she’d collected from family members of their residents.
One resident’s family said the caregivers were “a living example of God’s love.”
Another wrote, “Thank you for running doctor’s appointments … for the movies, the walks around the block (and) your ability to be so flexible.”
Betty Shaver, who turned 80 on Friday, works as a substitute house manager.
Aside from its being an excellent birthday surprise, Shaver joined others in saying how honored she was by what Pope and administrators had done to express gratitude to the staff.
Margie White, one of the few people in on the secret, said Pope was a one-of-a-kind boss.
“There’s nothing (Pope) doesn’t do,” White said. “Most places, you don’t find that.”
But for her part, Pope said the day was all about the staff members.
She said that because they work in two different counties, with some having alternating weeks on and off duty, the agency’s 39 staff members don’t have many opportunities to socialize.
For Crissie Patterson, home manager at the Chipola group home in Kannapolis, getting to socialize was the best part of the experience.
“You really don’t get to see everybody,” she said.
Deitra Crumblin, home manager at the Shamrock group home in Salisbury, said it was great to see her co-workers in a relaxed environment.
“Everybody got to let loose and have a good time,” Crumblin said.Patterson said that the surprise party was another way that working at Cabarrus County Group Homes was “like a family.”
Already, she said, she considers her residents part of her family. “For Thanksgiving, the ones who don’t get to go home, I’ll take them to my house,” Patterson said.
With staff members who wear so many hats, both on and off the job, Friday’s surprise was a chance to just enjoy being themselves – a unique experience for those whose job is anything but ordinary.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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