It doesn’t take long for a visitor to Burlington House to determine that the residents of this home, atop the hill, have formed a special community.
On this evening, perpetual prankster Lukas spots fellow housemate Melissa’s new glasses on the dinner table while she is out of the room. He jokingly decides to put on the ill-fitting spectacles. Melissa returns, Lukas grins broadly and cries out, “Gotcha!” The housemates and staff share a laugh: Lukas has struck again.
Opened in May 2014 as The Guild for Human Services’ first adult program residence, Burlington House exudes a warm, supportive environment in which its five residents – four of whom attended The Guild School together – care about one another’s well-being. The experienced staff is dedicated to each individual’s personal development.
“They’re not just roommates, they are longtime friends,” reports Bob Pelletier, Melissa’s father. “It feels like a family.”
While Melissa was restricted to the couch as she recovered from recent eye surgery, Lukas and Tyler ensured she was comfortable and had what she needed. When Shirin’s mom picked her up for dinner one evening, Gabe wondered aloud where his friend had gone.
The parents credit the staff, led by residential manager Gina Germeil, who has worked at the house for nearly five years, for creating a sense of belonging and an environment in which their children can thrive.
“The care provided is very professional and attentive to my son’s needs,” says Jen Young, Tyler’s mother. “The staff are the unsung heroes.”
On weekdays, the residents attend day habilitation programs. During evenings and on weekends, the group enjoys shopping in the community, eating out at restaurants, playing at nearby parks, taking neighborhood walks and swimming at their local YMCA.
“They always want to help each other,” Gina says. “It’s really sweet to see.”
The close, meaningful relationships are shared amongst residents’ parents as well. The parents gather regularly at the house for summer barbecues, holiday celebrations, birthday parties and other special occasions. Sharing in the experience of raising a child with special needs, the parents have bonded in a unique way.
“We all care about each other’s children and really work to support each other,” Jen says. “We all truly believe that this is our kids’ extended family. We are intertwined that way.”
Bob felt that support of his “second” family when his wife was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He was forced to move her into a nursing home last August.
“Everyone was very supportive, offering their sympathies and asking what they could do to help,” Bob recalls. “I wasn’t surprised … that is what you expect from a family.”
The parents remain grateful that their children were placed in such a caring home with a committed, engaged staff. They expressed appreciation to Maureen Costello-Shea, The Guild’s chief program officer, for ensuring that the house opened on time and the residents were located together.
Bob compares the situation at Burlington House to winning the Megabucks drawing. “After overcoming numerous challenges in her youth, this was the perfect setting for my daughter to lead a high-quality life in adulthood. I’m waiting for someone to pinch me and wake me up,” he says.
Says Jen, “It is better than I could have imagined – and I have a big imagination. In our situations, to be able to be optimistic about the future is amazing.”