Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesdays with Dorothy: A Speech about Independent Living

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When I was working at St. Andrew’s Foundation as Program Director, one of my colleagues, Edsel Massey, was Outreach Director. Edsel had been working at St. Andrew’s Foundation almost from its beginning. You may remember from a previous post that Edsel went along with then Program Director Harry Hamilton to meet Dorothy when she was first accepted into the group homes.

I remember one day when Edsel got a call from someone at the regional office for the State Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. There was to be a conference at the Winfrey Hotel and the organizers of the conference wanted to let conference attendees hear from mental health clients who were successfully managing independent living. Right away Edsel told them that Dorothy would be the perfect candidate. He called Dorothy on the telephone to ask if she would be willing to go to the conference to tell the people there about her life in the community. Dorothy enthusiastically accepted the offer. Edsel picked her up and took her to the conference on the appointed day. When he returned he was very pleased and talked about what an excellent job Dorothy had done and how she really connected with the group.

It was some years later when Dorothy and I were having our weekly conversations that I asked her about that day.  This was her recollection:

There was this conference at the Winfrey Hotel and Edsel took me out there to give a speech.  I told them about one time when I went down to Five Points. Me and another lady were in Clyde Huston’s I asked for a glass of Wild Turkey, she asked for a glass of tequila. Well I drunk that Wild Turkey, and when I went out, I didn’t know if I was wild or the turkey was wild.  I thought, “Dear God! I don’t never want no more of that stuff!” I told them about that and I thought everybody would fall over laughing. I was supposed to have been making a speech about what we did to live independently. I got excited, and I wasn’t even using the microphone. I was just blaring out and everybody was laughing.

Then somebody else got up there, they were from another place. I don’t know if everybody could hear them. Some lady took us out there. It was at some mental health conference that we went to to talk about living on our own.

One of the conference rooms at the Winfrey

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