Consistency, teamwork are key to independence for Farrell
On some days Patricia Arata can scarcely believe Farrell Vangsness is the same person she started working with in 1979.
“Thirty years ago, Farrell had to be told how to do everything, but he’s come such a long way since then,” said Patricia, a Senior Residential Case Manager. “Now, his self-confidence is higher than ever, so he can better communicate his needs. And we only visit him at home once or twice a week – almost as a formality – just to check that he’s taking care of his daily tasks and to take him shopping and banking.”
That’s assuming Patricia and her staff can catch Farrell at his apartment in a Milwaukee suburb. When he’s home, Farrell enjoys playing hymns on his piano. But more often than not, he’s out and about, maintaining an active, well-rounded lifestyle that includes a food service job, choir practice at church, traveling and competing in the Special Olympics.
According to Sara Anzaldua, Case Manager in the Employment Service’s Work Adjustment Training program, “consistency” is the key to Farrell’s growing independence.
“Whether it’s basic independent living skills training, or work training, Farrell does best when there’s consistency in his life, so it becomes a habit and part of his daily routine,” said Sara, who has been working with Farrell since June. “It’s very important for him to be in a positive, supportive environment and to know he’s contributing to a team.”
That sense of teamwork feeds into Farrell’s number one passion: the Special Olympics, where he competes in softball, track and field, basketball and bowling – earning a 4th place medal in that sport at last summer’s state games.
While Farrell is no stranger to independence – having lived on his own, but with roommates, for a dozen years and been in programming at MCFI for parts of three decades – 2010 has been particularly notable in his development. Now, he divides his work days between MCFI Hospitality Kitchen and the Milwaukee Academy of Science cafeteria and returns to his own apartment. He was recently recognized for his accomplishments by the MCFI Work Services Committee.
Yet, no matter how independent he becomes, Farrell still likes to check in daily with his MCFI friends, who are more than happy to take his call.
“The MCFI community is like a family to Farrell and he has a network of people here who he updates on how his day went,” said Sara. “Farrell’s always so excited to talk with us. It’s the highlight of my day.”