Helping America's Most Vulnerable

Joanne's Wild Adventures

Have you ever wondered, ‘am I living life to the fullest—overcoming obstacles, diving into the unknown, and staying grounded in my faith?’ At Volunteers of America, we know someone who is doing all those things and more—her name is Joanne and she is served by our Supported Living Services Program.

At 66 years old, Joanne has been receiving services from Volunteers of America for more than 27 years, as she lives with an intellectual disability.  Her journey began at the Constance group home where she learned skills that would afford her the opportunity to live independently and eventually transition into her own apartment. Joanne worked hard to forge her independence and inspired others to reconsider the most ardent obstacle to achievement—fear. 
With the help of our Supported Living Services Program, Joanne was determined to make her own way rather than relying on others to meet all of her needs. She wanted to become employed and earn money. However, the skills needed to obtain and maintain employment—such as interviewing, time management, scheduling and transportation—were formidable obstacles for her.  After hours of practice and support from her Facilitator and Direct Support Professionals, Joanne was able to secure employment, get herself ready each day, and take public transportation to and from work.  During her time with Volunteers of America’s Supported Living Services Program, Joanne has held many jobs and recently retired from the ARC of Greater New Orleans.  
As she began to thrive in this independent but supported lifestyle, her goals expanded from work into play as she sought opportunities for growth and enjoyment.  One of her favorite activities is to travel. Along the way she often makes friends and attracts admirers. For instance, the first time she flew on an airplane, she could hardly contain her excitement, and as the plane lifted off she screamed and clapped, smiling from ear to ear.  By the end of the flight, her joy and anticipation had become so infectious that many of the other passengers thanked her for sharing her zest for life with them on the flight. 
Joanne even views experiences that some of us would find scary, as exhilarating.  While on a trip in Mexico, she saw other people bungee jumping and realized that she would love to do that as well.  Once home, she turned to her trusted allies at Volunteers of America and enlisted her Facilitator, Melody Pritchard, to take the plunge with her. Melody agreed and they arranged the outing. Just as it was their turn to jump, Joanne took out her false teeth, handed them to her Direct Support Professional and away they went!  She screamed and held on tight, but loved every minute of it. Joanne has also been snorkeling and has attended a Luther Vandross concert, where she danced into the night. 
Joanne’s engagement with the fun, fleeting experiences of life lives in balance with a deep-rooted, faithful dedication to friends, co-workers, and the church. And it does not go unnoticed; in October of 2014 she was honored by Williams Boulevard Baptist Church for being the longest standing member of their special ministries program, of which she has been a participant for over 40 years. 
Before Joanne came to Volunteers of America she was relying on others to meet her basic needs and living within those boundaries. However, because of the support, guidance, and friendship she received from the Supported Living Services Program, she was able to spread her wings and remind us all what it means to be alive.