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At first, Lavina Kennedy didn't want to move away from her family and into a house operated by Muskingum Residentials, Inc. But Kennedy, who has Down syndrome, needed care. The kind of care her family couldn't provide.
"A lot of people think you can care for these kids, but you really need professionals," said Twila Quinn, Kennedy's older sister.
Now, though, Kennedy is happy to live where she does. She has roommates who are more like family, and they all take turns cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. She works at Zane State College, cleaning the beauty salon. She visits her family, and her family visits her. She has her own space.
She has independence, Quinn said, which wouldn't have been possible without programs like Starlight, MRDD and Muskingum Residentials.
Until she was 18, Kennedy lived with and was cared for by her parents. She didn't really talk, her sister said, and didn't do chores, or work.
Then, when their parents died, Kennedy needed a place to live. She's younger by far than her siblings, many of whom had kids of their own at that point.
"We didn't know what to do," Quinn said. "She needs care all the time."
And Kennedy found it, in Starlight. She started talking more, and she learned the skills she needed to get a job. In the past 20 years, she's had several, including Pizza Hut, JC Penney and the Starlight workshop.
They don't hire her because they feel sorry for her, Quinn said. They hire her because she's a good worker. Some have called her the best worker they've ever had.
"She just thrives," said Beverly Ellis, direct support professional facility manager with Muskingum Residentials. "She goes to work and she loves to go."
Ellis works two days a week in the home that Kennedy shares with her roommates.
"I can't imagine coming to work and not seeing Lavina's smiling face," Ellis said.
With the help of staff members from Muskingum Residentials, Kennedy goes out to eat (which she loves), and runs errands. She is out in the community, and while it's good for her it's also good for other people, Quinn said, who might not otherwise interact with someone who has developmental disabilities.
"They get what these kids are capable of by their being in the community," Quinn said.
In her free time, Kennedy loves listening to country music, watching the Big Bang Theory, taking walks and writing. She writes notes to people, stories and her Christmas list. She loves to shop. She likes to bowl in the local Special Olympics.
"They're just like us," Quinn said. "They want and need the same things we do."
Kennedy's life as a child and teenager was so different, sometimes it's hard to fathom how far she's come, Quinn said.
"Mom and Dad wouldn't believe any of this, right 'Vine?" Quinn sai.
"Right," Kennedy said.
"Yeah," Quinn said. "They wouldn't believe it."
This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in the Zanesville Times Recorder. The original story can be found at: http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/story/news/local/2017/10/27/she-just-thrives/806022001/
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