When you combine volunteers + Professional Neighbors + iLink Technology to deliver support services within a safe, local community, the result is GoodLife’s Neighborhood Network (NN), an innovative service model that promotes independence for adults with disabilities.
At its core, the NN combines the foundation of a well-selected neighborhood with the personalized technology of iLink and professional neighbors who live next door to provide support and peace of mind for those who want to live in their own home as independently as possible. And since life is more than a series of needs, we created the TEAM Work and RISE programs to empower individuals with I/DD within the NN to work, learn, and grow in a safe, self-directed, and inclusive environment.
We recently visited with Jenny Lillistrand, our very first NN resident, a TEAM Work employee, and RISE participant, along with Cheryl McIntosh, director of GoodLife’s Johnson County NN. Together, Jenny and Cheryl share what it’s like to live, work, and play within the NN community.
Jenny, what are some things that make you you?
(Jenny) I read, go shopping, and go for walks. I really like to be around people – I’m a people person. I like having visitors over, like my mom, and spending the night at her house. And I love to look up stories about Princess Kate and the Royal Family.
(Cheryl) When she says she’s a people person, she means it! Jenny is our party planner. She helps us plan and decorate for the events here at the NN.
We love a good party, too! Jenny, what’s it like living at the NN?
(Jenny) It’s really nice. I have freedom and independence to do things for myself and see friends every day. I have a great staff who helps me fix up my apartment or drive me to appointments and activities. I don’t like using the stove — it gets too hot and I’m like “Nuh uh!” So they helped me find other ways to make food for myself, like the microwave and the Ninja Foodi (indoor grill / air fryer). Also, I don’t like to be alone all of the time, and there is always someone around to talk to. Moving here was one of the best things for me.
My friend Christine also helps me when I’m nervous about going to medical appointments. She drives me to the doctor and makes me feel better when I’m anxious. And she does a lot to make the NN better, too. She’s wonderful.
(Cheryl) Christine Rolston is a GoodLife board member and donates countless hours to assist Jenny. Christine is an amazing advocate and has helped the NN become what it is today. Jenny trusts Christine and they have such a great relationship.
So you’re basically just like Princess Kate! You have your own driver and team to help you!
(Laughs and claps) Yes! I have everything I need! We get to have our RISE prom this year too, so I get to dress for a fancy party and have my hair and makeup done — I really do feel like a princess here!
Cheryl, Jenny was one of the first NN residents. How has the program grown since Jenny first moved in?
Six years ago, there were cameras in the apartments for remote monitoring. However, on-site staff could really only directly communicate with the central monitoring site by cell phone, so deploying staff came with delays. Today, we have 21 residents at the JCNN, four Professional Neighbors, four direct support professionals (DSPs), and iLink technology within each home connecting residents of both the local NN support office (where activities and care are coordinated) and GoodLife’s Applied Technology Center. Our staff can monitor each resident from an on-campus office to provide remote, on-demand coaching and deploy staff right when it’s needed. The program has evolved in the best ways to help residents like Jenny experience meaningful and satisfying lives in their own homes.
(Jenny) It’s great. It’s so great. We get to go to more and more places each weekend, too, like bowling, the mall, TopGolf. Last weekend we went to the Feline Sanctuary. I also go to RISE Monday through Friday. We go swimming in the lake, to Deanna Rose Farmstead, museums, take tours of how to roast coffee, learn how to cook, and volunteer in the community.
(Cheryl) Yes! Jenny is also involved with RISE, a day program specifically created by GoodLife to assist semi-independent adults to become more independent, active members and leaders within the community. The RISE curriculum focuses on building social skills, budgeting and money management, life skills development and job readiness—all while engaging in activities that meet four primary goals:
- Explore the community;
- Build independent living skills
- Contribute community service
- Active peer mentoring.
As the program has grown, so have the opportunities for residents, like Jenny, to explore new activities and skills within the community.
Speaking of being in the community, Jenny, tell us about your job!
(Huge smile) I love my job! I’m an assistant for GoodLife ‘s TEAM Work office in Lenexa, Kansas. I make program books, help run errands, all sorts of stuff!
What do you love about working there?
I know the staff there really well and they know me. I like hearing my name and saying hello when people say hi to me. It’s familiar and I feel like I belong — I have great friends there.
(Cheryl) Jenny is loved by everyone. She’s always smiling and has a humorous aura about her. She just makes people happy when she’s around. The TEAM Work office is a perfect place for her to work because it allows her to be her naturally social self while gaining skills.
(Jenny) One thing I didn’t say yet is that I have a goofy side! I can be trouble in a good way — (giggling) so you better watch out! It’s not good to always be serious. I have fun in my own way and I love to laugh — people like that.
(Cheryl) The world needs more good trouble like Jenny!
We couldn’t agree more.
Learn more about the Neighborhood Network to see if it’s the right fit for your loved one. Want to join our team in making a meaningful difference? Apply today! If you are interested in partnering with GoodLife to deliver services that support independence in your community, reach out! We can’t wait to hear from you.