Community seeking special friends for residents without family
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - For the family that thinks it has everything, Kandice Walker has a Christmas gift idea: A new friend.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Kandice Walker, development director of the Community of the Good Shepherd, speaks with residents as they return home from work.
Walker, development director of the Community of the Good Shepherd, said that 10 of the community's 34 adult male, developmentally disabled residents have no contact with any person outside of the community. She said the community would welcome volunteers who would agree to befriend them, and perhaps take them on brief, occasional outings.
"Our staff is fabulous," Walker said. "But they are paid to be here. Think of how you would feel if you just had people around you who where paid to be there. They (the men) need someone who says, 'I like you just because I like you.'"
Volunteer friends will get at least as much as they give, Walker said.
"These men are examples of what God wants us to be," she said. "They are sweet, innocent, and completely trusting. I see them as extremely Christ-like."
Community of the Good Shepherd was founded in southeast Kansas City with deep Catholic roots. Although the community has no ties to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, many of its founding and current board members are Catholic, as well as many of the people who continue to support the community financially and spiritually.
About one-third of the community's residents are members of St. John Francis Regis Parish and faithfully attend 10:30 a.m. Mass there as a group every Sunday, Walker said.
But many have no contact with people outside the community or at their jobs at a sheltered workshop, and for others, their contact with the outside world is sparse, she said.
"Some of them have simply outlived their parents," Walker said. "Society has made a lot of progress in the medical care of the developmentally disabled, and they are living longer lives.
"We also have some whose parents live out of state. The parents are now elderly and can't get here as often as they used to for visits," she said.
"We have others who have been wards of the state since they were born," Walker said. "Their families gave them up at birth and have never had contact."
Walker stressed that volunteer friends do not have to make a huge commitment of time. But an outing every now and then with an outside family, especially on birthdays, holidays and special occasions, would mean a great deal.
"They can all use extra attention," Walker said. "Who of us would say no to having a new friend?"
A volunteer family would also not have to alter its schedule to entertain its new friend, Walker said. The Community of the Good Shepherd can match the interests of the volunteer with the interests of the resident.
In fact, the residents' interests run a gamut, she said. They enjoy movies, theater, shopping, and especially sports events.
"The Chiefs, the Royals, the Attack, the Wizards, the Blades," Walker said. "They are very much into Kansas City sports teams." But she offered a caveat: Fasten your seat belts if you agree to befriend a Community of the Good Shepherd resident.
"They throw themselves 110 percent into whatever they are doing," Walker said. "They enjoy life to the very, very fullest."
Walker said that prospective volunteer friends would be interviewed in order to find the best match with a resident. She especially encouraged families with children to apply.
"It is very good for children to see people with developmental disabilities so they won't grow up thinking that they are so different," she said. "It's important for families to know that people are people, no matter what their ability levels are."
People interested in volunteering as a friend can contact Sandra Kinney at the Community of the Good Shepherd at (816) 767-8090.