Nonprofit gives clients with intellectual disabilities a meaningful day

Randy Johnson Sr. and his wife Susan of New Castle have high expectations for their three children. Their eldest, 28-year-old Randy Johnson Jr. who has down syndrome, was no exception.

“I never cut him any slack. I just raised him as normal as possible,” Johnson, Sr. said.

From education to recreation, the Johnsons made sure their son’s disability didn’t limit his opportunities.

Down syndrome isn’t something that fits in a box, said Susan Johnson. Just because a textbook says they can do something doesn’t mean that’s all they can do.

“All the things [the nurse] told me [Randy] probably wouldn’t do, he did,” said Johnson. But he struggled with one thing.

“We prayed about getting him help to talk, and now we can’t get him to shut up,” interjects Mr. Johnson.

It’s their son’s outgoing personality that makes him a standout at Community Interactions Inc., a nonprofit organization with services in Pennsylvania and Delaware, that supports people with autism, intellectual disabilities and diagnosed behavioral health challenges.

“We allow Randy to be Randy here. No one is trying to put him in a box,” said program coordinator Denaye Jones.

Community Interactions’ day program was just the type of service the Johnsons wanted for their son, who graduated from high school, but wasn’t ready to take that leap into the working world.

Randy tried several jobs in high school. None of them seemed right for him, but his parents knew he was capable of doing something worthwhile.

“They gave him the opportunity to step out there and take the lead and that’s just what we were looking for,” said his father.

Randy Johnson helps make deliveries with Meals on Wheels. (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

Among Randy’s favorite activities at Community Interactions is helping with Meals on Wheels.

“He loves the routine and he knows the individuals on the route,” Jones said.

The Johnsons tried other agencies before finding one that worked with their son’s personality. Randy’s mother says they felt some places treated them like, “you’re dropping your kid off because you need something to do.”

Day Program and Services Director, Barry Foster says they get a lot of positive feedback about their program. Families “enjoy the fact that their loved ones are allowed to go out and have a meaningful day.”

Clients take part in daily recreational activities like yoga and Zumba classes, going on day trips, and assisting with volunteering efforts. Some clients may be placed in jobs within the community. Employment Specialist Shelia Galford says they train clients for jobs bagging, envelope stuffing, stocking and custodial work.

In addition to the Day Program, Community Interactions also offers additional services, including a residential program and in-home support.

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