My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Friends Of Abilities First Inc, Springfield, MO, USA
Friends of Abilities First raises money for--and educates the community about—people with developmental disabilities in Greene County, Missouri. They are the “friends” of Abilities First, (working name for the Greene County Board for Developmental Disabilities). The hundreds of people whom they serve every month each have their own unique story; I would like to share with you just one of those stories that has been shared with me, and I believe you will become one of their champions just as I have!
This is a true story; the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family.
Donnie is the legal guardian of his younger brother, Roger. Let me start by telling you about Donnie, who was propelled into the role of head of the household at a very early age, probably fourteen, maybe younger. Donnie’s father, Bennie, already in his eighties when Donnie was born, was a strict disciplinarian. In fact, people who remember him will tell you he was “meaner than a junk yard dog”. Donnie remembers one occasion when, as punishment for some transgression, his dad made him take off his clothes, after which Bennie soaked his son’s body with bug spray. “Burned like hell,” Donnie remarked. But, incredible as it may seem, Donnie holds no animosity toward his father. In fact, some ten years after his death at age ninety-three, the room in which the old man died has been locked and never again opened. Why? Because Bennie left instructions that it was to be that way. And Donnie never considered anything other than to comply. So it is that Donnie, his wife, his son, his mother and Roger, all live together in the little family home with the room that is never again to be entered.
To help you understand why I feel so moved to be a part of the work that Friends of Abilities First does, I must fill in a few more details. Donnie’s mother has always been, or became so as a result of being married to the infamous Bennie, shall we say--a hard woman. Once she threw a glass of water in Sheryl’s (Donnie’s wife) face just because she wanted to. But she is quite elderly, and nothing is done to alter her behavior—not by Donnie or by Sheryl. Then there is Donnie’s fourteen-year-old son, Lil’ Donnie. Lil’ Donnie is “slow”, (as the family puts it), and does not understand why he is forced go to school. He has been put back a year--or maybe two-- and is suspended (much to his delight) on a regular basis. He reasons that his dad didn’t finish school, and he does all right working as an aide in a nursing home. His father explains that he quit school to care for his ailing father, to keep him from being put in a nursing home. And because he didn’t get to complete his education, Donnie exerts every kind of effort to keep his son in school—moving him to a different district when he must, imploring teachers to give him another chance, and literally delivering him to the school door to make sure he actually goes in.
Donnie’s wife, his third wife—why would anyone stay for long?—is a fragile woman with a heart condition. She has suffered a lot of abuse in her life. Living in a home with a roof over her head, even if it occasionally leaks, knowing where her next meal is coming from, is enough to keep her reasonably content. But, now, you should know a little more about the house. It’s really a tiny little shack; in place of ceiling tile, Donnie has stapled black plastic. The floors are bare wood, splintered and rotted in some places, but Donnie always finds a way to shore up the defects and keep the family relatively safe from falling through. There is not actually enough room in the house for the whole family, so Donnie and Sheryl sleep in a shed in the back yard, furnished to look, for all practical purposes, like a bedroom. Remember, one room in the tiny house is perpetually locked, never again to be opened.