That’s Gail Hisoire’s new title in the Rutz household, and it makes her feel all the more like a true member of the family.
Through Alternatives’ Shared Living Program, Gail moved in a year ago with Karen and Darin Rutz, her host family. At the time, the couple was a family of two, but baby Grace soon made it three. As a bona fide member of the extended clan, Gail has been dubbed Auntie Gail.
“She’s done so great with the baby. Gail will be a perfect aunt as Grace grows up, ” Karen Rutz said.
The Shared Living program allows individuals with developmental disabilities to live in a real home and be part of a real family. This means they share responsibilities for some family chores and join in gatherings with other family and friends. In Gail’s case, she helps care for the family’s two cats.
For a match to succeed, members of the home must be compatible with one another, and Alternatives tries to make that happen. It doesn’t always work, however. The first person Darin and Karen welcomed into their home did not work out.
“We had begun work with another individual, but the fit really wasn’t right for any of us,” Karen said. Still, they were enthusiastic about the program and wanted to succeed in it. They are pleased that they persisted in their goal because the experience with Gail has been a winner from the start. For them, Gail is a responsible member of the family, “always ready to help and thinking of others.”
Gail has earned the admiration of Michael Siebold, Director of Community Services, who has known her for 30 years. He describes her as a “delightfully feisty woman with a great sense of humor” and a determination to achieve her goals. Her accomplishments include being a presenter at a recent Shared Living Conference and receiving a Leadership Award from Alternatives.
So what does Gail think of her life with the Rutz family? “Awesome, really awesome,” she says.
Below is a video of Gail’s story: