Daenor Linton is a direct support professional for a community-based program at NuPath, a Human Services provider based in Woburn, MA. He spends his days with four men living with disabilities, organizing everything from Meals on Wheels deliveries to trips to Canobie Lake Park, all while giving their families a window into their loved ones’ experiences. He spoke with The Breakthrough to share his story.
What’s a typical day look like for you?
Daenor Linton: My days are always different, but we start every week by going to the library. My guys love using the computer. They like to practice their typing. One of them gets his movies for the week, another likes to look at every magazine they have, especially the sports. After the library, we’ll go to the YMCA to play basketball, workout, some days we even go swimming. We go to Market Basket for lunch—they’ve got a whole deli where you can sit and eat. In the summertime, we’ll walk around the pond. But it’s getting cold now so we go to Barnes & Noble. My guys love books. We’re always looking to learn about the new ones out there.
I hear you do a lot of volunteering, too?
DL: Oh yes. On Thursdays we volunteer at a hospice office. The guys do faxing, filing, mailing, all sorts of things. We also do Meals on Wheels. We get in our big van and deliver meals to the elderly. We deliver to at least 12 households. And my guys are good. The people we deliver to really look forward to seeing us. One day it was this lady’s birthday, so all the guys sang happy birthday to her and suddenly the lady started crying. Nobody had sung her happy birthday for a long time.
“This is where my heart is. I love this job.”
Sounds like a busy week! How do you manage it all?
DL: It’s a lot to juggle because I’m the one finding all these places to volunteer—I’m even helping one of my guys get a job right now. But I tend to keep a busy schedule anyway, so it’s no complaints from me.
Before I started this job, I worked in an office and had 15 people on my caseload I had to meet with on a daily basis. I know it sounds weird but I actually love doing paperwork. But now I get to be out in the community with these guys and it’s never hard to find stuff to do. The day goes by like *that* [snaps his fingers].
I imagine building trust with their families and caregivers must be super important.
DL: It is. I keep in touch with all my guys’ parents. I direct message them and send them pictures on Navigating Life on a daily basis. They send me feedback. They tell me they love seeing their guys in the community, and the fact that they’re out in the world, not stuck inside all day. It’s hard to express in words, but the families know I’m always looking out for the guys.
For me, personally, this is where my heart is. I love this job. Before I started here I was a month away from finishing a course to become an EMT. Suddenly this opportunity came along and I had to make a decision. I ended up leaving my EMT course to come here and I’ve never regretted it.
How did you make that decision?
DL: Back when I first moved here from Jamaica and started high school, I was also working as a dietary aid at a hospital. I was often supporting people living with disabilities, usually someone with Down Syndrome or autism. I just loved being around them. I became friends with this really, really creative guy who was autistic. He was an artist and he just inspired me. So later on when this opportunity came up, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
When did you start using Navigating Life?
DL: To figure that out, I’d have to go back to my very first post, and I post eight to ten pictures a day. That’s a lot of posting! [Laughs] It helps me show the families that the guys are out here doing something, making peoples’ day, working hard like everybody else.
What sorts of things do you post?
DL: What don’t we post! I post us at the gym, having lunch, working at the office, going to the movies, feeding homeless people when we volunteer at the soup kitchen. So many things. My guys are hilarious so I post lots of funny videos too. We’ve gone to Canobie Lake Park twice, and I posted some great videos of them jumping on the trampoline.
“When you’re actually seeing them live their lives, you realize there’s no limit to what they do.”
What effect do you see Navigating Life have on your guys?
DL: They love it. When we’re doing Meals on Wheels, for example, right when they hop out of the van they stop everything, without me saying anything, and they start striking poses. Because they know it’s picture time. We’re always posting before we drop off the food.
I think Navigating Life is genius. I use it every day. Because anybody can sit there and say, ‘my guys are doing this’ or ‘my guys are doing that,’ but a picture’s worth a thousand words. And when you’re actually seeing the real thing, when you’re seeing them live their lives, you realize there’s no limit to what they can do.
It gives everybody a chance to see that and see what they can do. I mean, when you see pictures of my guys working in the office, you’re seeing them as professionals. And that’s a really good thing.