March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a time when we get to know Arkansans with developmental disabilities for their value and talent.
Meet Jerry, a resident at the Jonesboro Human Development Center (JHDC). He loves to keep busy and play games with his friends. He also is an artist employed by The Blue Umbrella. His favorite things are sports, art, basketball sneakers, and video games.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for him because he has had such limited interaction with others. Not to mention, Jerry and those around him have lost friends, mentors, and loved ones, both to the virus and associated stress. He is happiest around his friends and family, and he says he feels good when he is included in what others are doing.
“I like having things to do and being helpful to others,” said Jerry.
As soon as COVID precautions are lifted, Jerry wants to go bowling with his friends. He says he looks forward to the day when he can visit his family back home.
Even though COVID has been a challenge, Jerry focuses on ways to make others happy.
“Jerry is always ready to go. Despite his struggles with being stuck in the house and everything that’s been thrown his way, he is always willing to go the extra mile to help out,” said Elisha Fore, Rehabilitation Instructor and Art Teacher at JHDC.
Working hard and finishing what he starts are important to Jerry. He takes pride in his work. He knows that some people see his disability rather than his talents, and he gets upset when people treat him differently or say things about him that are not true.
Instead, Jerry’s goal is to be known as “tried and true,” and others around him agree that phrase accurately describes him. Even a pandemic can’t keep him down.
“Over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jerry has been active nearly every day, helping the staff of the art department to make holiday and wellness cards to send home to families,” said Fore. “He has worked hard not only to make cards for his family, but for all the other residents who are unable to make their own. Jerry is a tried and true artist, worker, and friend.”
Jerry has a specific reason why he chose “tried and true” to describe who he is.
When asked why, he said, “because I never forget my friends.”
He may struggle, just as we all have in this pandemic, and he may have a different diagnosis than many. However, his character under stress is what rings tried and true. Jerry remains kind and loyal when it’s needed most. Everyone needs a friend like Jerry.
WRITTEN BY LAINEY MORROW, MEDICAID PUBLIC INFORMATION SPECIALIST IN THE DHS OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT