The MENTOR Network

Stories of our Mentors

Aida and Daryl Found Their Calling

The MENTOR Network's Host Home program

Friends, teachers and family are a few of the ways Desiree describes her Mentors, Aida and Daryl Owens, a couple who have opened their home and their hearts to help Desiree live life to the fullest.

The Owens had worked at Vineland Developmental Center since they were teenagers and had come to know and love the residents, their families and fellow staff members. After Daryl retired and they began to look towards the next chapter of their lives, the Owens searched for a way to continue making a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Host Homes:  A Way to Continue Making a Difference

That’s when they found New Jersey MENTOR’s Host Home program, a successful community living option that offers individualized support in private family homes provided by caring Host Home providers, known as Mentors.

“As Mentors, we wanted to provide the support necessary to help someone become more independent,” said Aida. “And to know that we always would have help when we needed it from the team at New Jersey MENTOR, was so important. They make it possible for us to really make a difference in Desiree’s life.”

Five years ago, the Owens met Desiree while providing relief support for other Mentors. A young woman who had had a difficult time growing up, Desiree had low self-esteem and difficulty making friends.

When she initially came to stay with the Owens on a short-term basis, Desiree had little respect for herself or others, but after a few short weekends, she was already showing signs of improvement. She was listening more, demonstrating appropriate social behavior and becoming more confident. Desiree’s quick progress inspired the Owens and soon they welcomed Desiree into their home—and into their family—permanently.

Support and Encouragement Helped Desiree Thrive

Their approach was simple: Offer her a place to be herself, opportunities to be more independent and constant support and encouragement. The entire Owens family became role models for Desiree. They made her feel comfortable so she could learn new skills, such as cooking, cleaning and picking out her own clothes.

Today Desiree is a mature and happy young woman who is able to manage her own medication and travel independently in the community. She excels in her day program, where she works part-time and earns her own income. Most importantly, Desiree’s self-esteem has improved and she is enjoys making new friends and spending time with her Mentor family.

“When Desiree came to live with us, we became more alive. Daryl and I are convinced that investing our time and effort to help Desiree is what makes our lives worth living.”
—Aida, Desiree’s Mentor