The MENTOR Network

Success Stories

A Reason to Smile

individual served by The Network's group homes

Tammy’s smile can light up a room. It is as warm and sincere as she is and truly expresses what happiness means. Seeing her now, one would never guess that for many years, Tammy felt she had little to smile about.

Tammy spent most of her life in a hospital. She was born with intellectual and developmental disabilities at a time when the common recommendation from doctors was to place people with disabilities in institutions. After living at home during her childhood, Tammy moved into a hospital as a teenager. Capable and highly independent, she found life there difficult. Tammy felt more like a patient than a person.

“Every five minutes they gave me medicine,” said Tammy. “I didn’t like the hospital at all.”

Goals of Independence

While Tammy received the care she needed from hospital staff, she yearned for a home of her own where she could be more independent. Finally, after more than 30 years, Tammy found the home she always wanted. Along with her friend from the hospital, Tammy moved into a group home managed by REM Minnesota, a partner of The MENTOR Network. With round-the-clock support staff, three housemates, and a room of her very own, Tammy has never been happier.

Today, more than a decade after moving into the community, Tammy is able to make her own decisions, be part of the community, and participate in everyday household activities. She goes bowling, shopping, and out to eat with friends and family. These may seem like small things, but for Tammy they are luxuries she never had.

“I like it better here than when I was at the hospital,” said Tammy. “I like it better here than anything else.”

Embracing Life in the Community

Marilyn Blanchard, a director of program services for REM Minnesota, has known Tammy since she first moved out of the hospital. Throughout her career in human services, Marilyn has seen many people like Tammy move from large institutions into their own homes.

“These individuals are able to direct their own lives in the community,” said Marilyn. “They are all deserving and worthy of that opportunity.”

Tammy has embraced her independence and life in the community with open arms. She is proud of her home and grateful for all that she is able to do now. For Tammy, every day brings a new adventure, a new step forward, and a new reason to keep smiling.

“I like it better here than when I was at the hospital.
I like it better here than anything else.”