By Sarah Colson
Conversation, daily exercise, a trip to the grocery store—these are a few simplicities most Johnson Citians experience regularly. But for senior citizens Bob Bradley and Marcus Reeves, that was not the case before they found Adult Day Services (ADS) in Johnson City, one of the 17 agencies supported by United Way of Washington County.
“I just sat at home,” Bradley said about his life before ADS. Bradley has been blind his whole life. “Me and Mom were there and we didn’t do a lot. My aunt and I would go out to eat about once or twice a week. Otherwise I just sat at home and listened to TV.”
Bradley has attended ADS for nine years now. When his mother died from cancer two years ago, he said the clients and staff at the center, which serves any elderly, handicapped or special attention-needing adults, became more than just his friends. They became family.
“They’d do anything in the world for you,” he said. “This is just like family here.”
Shortly after Reeves came to the center four years ago, he and Bradley became best friends. Now, the two say they’re just like brothers. Reeves, who’s also blind and has diabetes, said life was hard before ADS. When he had to have his eyes removed six years ago, things got even more difficult.
“I didn’t do much by myself,” he said. “I used to have a real bad anger problem. Through this program I’ve grown up. As you get older, you could just sit at home and just do nothing, but they don’t let you do that here.”
According to ADS Director Pam Gardner, about 10 percent of ADS’s funding comes from United Way of Washington County. Gardner said she loves the program so much that when her own daughter had a massive stroke at the age of 20, Gardner brought her to be a participant in the program.
“That’s how much I believe in it,” she said. “And this program would not still be in this community had it not been for the United Way’s support in the last 23 years I’ve been here.”
The program was originally funded solely by the Department of Human Services, which would send at risk adults to the center at 603 Bert Street in Johnson City. Gardner said that funding did not increase for 20 years.
“So you can imagine how much the cost of business went up in that 20-year period,” she said. “I can honestly sit here and tell you that without the continued support of United Way during that 20 years, the program wouldn’t have been here. That’s how valuable United Way is to this program.”
And Reeves said the program is, in turn, invaluable to him and his friends. In some instances, Reeves said, ADS meant the difference between life and death. Reeves’ blindness and age left him often victim to strangers and even friends who took advantage of his kindness. At one point, someone he considered a friend attacked him in his own home. Reeves’ young grandson Christopher had to call the police.
“I was trying to be kind and I let people in my house I probably shouldn’t have and I was taken advantage of,” Reeves said. “I could’ve gotten killed. Pam and the other staff have helped me learn that I need to be more cautious.”
Reeves and Bradley both said they could never say enough about what ADS has done for them. They then went on to make a very big promise.
“Me and Bob’s talked it over before,” Reeves said, “and if I ever won the lottery, I would write a check and give it to Ms. Pam to put into this day care. I would do that in a heartbeat.”
As for Gardner, she stressed the often forgotten importance of ADS and all of the other 16 agencies the United Way of Washington County supports.
“The community doesn’t recognize how valuable the services that are provided by United Way agencies in our community are,” she said. “Without those agencies in the community, things would be a lot different. And there’s nothing more important in my book than taking care of our community and our neighbors.”
To learn more about ADS, visit fthra.org/adult-day-services.