by LAUREE PURCELL
Pleasant View residents David and Linda Swartzendruber, who are in their 50s, are individuals who have barriers that could have kept them from achieving their goals. Linda was born with an intellectual disability and convulsive disorder. David had a childhood illness that, due to a prolonged fever of 107 degrees, left him with an intellectual disability. Despite their disabilities, David and Linda are able to enjoy a fulfilling, productive life together due in large part to the support they are receiving from the professional staff and friends at Pleasant View.
David and Linda have been married for over 12 years. They met at Pleasant View’s Lee High Residence in the mid 1980s and soon became close, inseparable friends. David suggested they get married, but it took Linda a little time to decide.
The two talked with family and friends about it, and Harvey Yoder provided them with premarital counseling. When the time was right, they had a nice wedding with both of their families involved. Pleasant View staff helped with the flowers and the reception. Pam Miller, the current development director, helped her then 6-year-old daughter find the purple dress Linda specified so she could be their flower girl. Pleasant View’s pastor Dave Gullman and Zion Mennonite Church’s then pastor Clyde Kratz helped marry them.
“They communicate so well and are good at negotiating their differences and listening to each other,” said Nancy Hopkins-Garriss, executive director of Pleasant View. “They make compromises and have impressive conversations.” David and Linda live in a spacious living area within a group home run by Pleasant View in a single-family neighborhood in Broadway.
According to its website, Pleasant View grew out of a concern many families in the Virginia Mennonite Conference had in the late 1960s about what would happen to their family member with an intellectual disability if they were no longer able to care for him/her. The doors to the first residential home, now known as Turner House, opened in March 1971. Through the intervening years, Pleasant View has grown from a six-person group home to a multidimensional agency that serves over 170 people through a variety of services and supports. The Lee High Residence, where Linda and David met, opened in 1979 in Broadway.
The people being served by Pleasant View range from having severe medical issues to being able to work at their own jobs.
The people being served by Pleasant View range from having severe medical issues to being able to work at their own jobs. Most individuals supported by Pleasant View have intellectual disabilities that started before they were 18 and that interfere with their ability to perform two life skills. Once a person’s needs and wants are assessed, they are supported with a variety of programs. Day programs with community outings, volunteer work through Community Connections and Supported Employment are all possible through Pleasant View’s services. There is always one staff adult for every two to five people going on an outing. Pleasant View receives 88 percent of its funding from Medicaid. There is a lot of fundraising to cover the rest. Pleasant View has 11 residential locations and two facility-based day programs.
David and Linda have both been members of Zion Mennonite Church since the 1980s. They like to sing in church services, see their friends each Sunday and enjoy having dinner there one night each week. They are also part of Pleasant View’s worship team – a fun and meaningful community outreach in which anyone supported by Pleasant View may participate. The team is invited to local churches, community organizations and clubs to share their gifts of vocal choir, bell choir, scripture reading and a message.
Pleasant View staff help David and Linda with cooking meals, shopping, balancing their checkbook and any other life skills they find too challenging to do independently. A cleaning woman takes care of most housework within their home. Linda sets the table and David helps make the spaghetti and chili they enjoy. They go shopping together with a staff member for their groceries and other essentials.
Pleasant View staff take David and Linda on a short vacation each year to celebrate their anniversary. Linda’s favorite was a trip, led by Human Resources Director Tamra Puffenbarger, to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. five to six years ago to see Dolly Parton, other music shows and shop.
Both David and Linda participate in Special Olympics. They enjoy swimming, basketball, bowling, softball and volleyball, one sport at a time. Teams from all over Virginia gather for tournaments and meet to compete regularly.
David is also a fan of many sports. He attends most of the Broadway High School basketball team’s home games with a friend, Sandy Tolle, and has taken many bus trips with his Aunt Ruby to see the Baltimore Orioles. He loves the Washington Redskins and has been to one of their football games, as well.
David has been able to bag groceries at Sharp Shopper without much support for nine years. His job coach, Laura, checks on him twice a month and talks with his supervisors, Diane Michael and Doris Earles, to make sure no problems have developed. “He’s very good at his work. He has such a nice smile and positive outlook that customers remember him and purposely go down his lane so they have a chance to chat with him,” said Donna Click, Pleasant View’s coordinator for Supportive Employment. So it’s not surprising that Sharp Shopper has given him pay raises over the years. He’s proud of his performance and attendance there and loves the praise he receives from Diane.
Linda spent most of her childhood and early 20s institutionalized at Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg before moving to Pleasant View’s Lee High building in the mid ‘80s. Back in the 1960s when she was a child, going to an institution was the norm for many people with intellectual disabilities. Children were sometimes sent as young as 2 years old. Life has blossomed for Linda since leaving that institution in her early 20s.
Linda started working as a dining room attendant at Hardees in July of 1998, so some of the employees and regular customers there have known her for a long time. She enjoys greeting them, and she takes the trash out, cleans the tables and washes dishes. At Goodwill, she hangs at least 425 items of clothing on hangers during her three to four hour shift. Pleasant View residents are paid competitive wages in range with what other people make—not a subminimum wage.
She has a job coach employed by the state of Virginia to stay with her at all times, to make sure she stays safely in her work area and to help her meet job expectations. There are about ten job coaches who work with Linda at different times. Crystal Musser is Linda’s Pleasant View instructor at Goodwill, and her Pleasant View job coach at Hardees is Loren Breeden. To help Linda meet her quota of clothes she needs to hang up during her shift, her job coach brings materials to her and helps with whatever she needs. “Everybody is different in the amount of support they need, so we help Linda and the others meet the requirements of their employer at whatever level of help they need,” said Donna.
David and Linda have been fortunate to find each other and to have support through Pleasant View. They each have fulfilling lives with opportunities to continue learning, growing, helping others and enjoying their time together. To find out more about what Pleasant View staff can do to help Shenandoah Valley residents with intellectual disabilities, call (540) 433-8960 or visit their website at pleasantviewinc.org.
LAUREE STROUD PURCELL serves as an editorial consultant for Living. She and her husband Steve have two daughters.
Faith and Light Worship services
Pleasant View is a faith-based organization with accountability to the regional Virginia Mennonite Conference and other health related professional associations. Pleasant View’s pastor, Dave Gullman, provides spiritual support to the individuals within Pleasant View and through Faith and Light, a national organization with a chapter in our community. Dave, Mike Shenk, Gwen Carr, Preston Sudduth and John Gullman lead two Faith and Light worship services per month open to the community. Faith and Light is an international Christian association with intellectually disabled people, their parents, and friends. The worship service includes music, teaching and ministry, and a time of fellowship. There are currently about 90 people attending. Both Trinity Presbyterian Church, Harrisonburg, and Zion Mennonite Church, Broadway, hold one Faith and Light service every other month.
Pastor Dave Gullman’s book
Dave Gullman has written a book published in 2015, “Teachers of the Soul: The Heart of God Revealed Through People With Disabilities.” It is about his personal and family journey with a daughter with Down syndrome. It can be purchased at Pleasant View or online at WestBowPress.com.