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Zack and his family are LEO community members in our applicant pool, hoping to be part of a LEO Home. His mom, Lisa, spoke to us about their journey, and about what makes LEO special to them.
Mother and early childhood educator, Lisa Stephens, has made it her mission to support her son, Zack, to live his best life as an independent, working, thriving member of society.
Along with her husband, Ed, Lisa spent years researching and traveling in and out of state to find independent living options for Zack.
“To support this population of people that are sometimes overlooked and often underestimated is disheartening,” said Lisa. “Developmentally delayed does not mean incapable! Our son is 29 and we feel now is the time. He is ready to live in an adult family home and spread his wings into his next chapter.”
Lisa hopes Zack can find permanent security and independence in a supported living environment.
She sums it up like this: “A home with friends and guidance from caregivers, and the ever-present love and support of family, adds up to a happy life.”
Despite their diligent efforts, Ed and Lisa have lived for years with a constant worry for Zack’s future.
“What will happen, if and when we can no longer take care of him?” asked Lisa. “It is very troubling and scary to have that worry to dwell on. Our search for a suitable living environment for Zack left us few options, long waiting lists and compromises on what we think is best for his overall wellbeing.”
At one point, Lisa considered some self-contained adult family homes, that offer independent living funded through religious organizations. Although a good fit for some families, Lisa was concerned about sending Zack so far away from his home, and upending the lifestyle and routines he’s been accustomed to since childhood.
“These places are in very rural areas and require the residents to work ranching and farming within the housing compound, as opposed to out in the community,” Lisa explained. As Zack didn’t grow up on a farm, moving to these communities would require major lifestyle changes. Also, he would have been isolated from his family and friends, far from his home community.
It was at this point in their journey that Lisa, Ed and Zack encountered LEO.
“Hope!” said Lisa. “To know that our special loved ones can have a future and build a life they can be proud of with caring and loving friends and caregivers gives us peace of mind and hope for Zack’s future. To witness the hope for the future in my sons eyes, as opposed to the fear of the unknown, is wonderful.”
LEO is a positive, life-altering, organization of passionate supporters who are completely dedicated to meeting the needs of a vulnerable population. LEO offers the gift of independence, acceptance and purpose to this special group of men and women.
“I hope that LEO continues the wonderful work they are doing, and that it can serve as a model to other communities,” Lisa said. “We are so grateful for the opportunity LEO is offering to our son, and we are filled with hope and excitement for a new chapter of growth for Zack.”