Board of Directors member, Ginny Vreeland, became familiar with Opengate while in the position as a nurse employed there from 1981-1985. When it came time to find suitable housing for her son with developmental disabilities, she already knew where the best place for him would be.
She recalls son Geoffrey’s behavior challenges and how he arrived at Opengate as a frantic, agitated young man. He was eventually able to become more relaxed through the care of staff and programs. Because he is minimally verbal, it takes special attention and time to learn to read his signals and respond appropriately. Now, as a 49-year-old man, he is able to interact more suitably.
Ginny attributes much of the progress and expectations of excellence for the growth of Opengate to the leadership of CEO Brian Hulten along with the professionalism of the members of the Board, and the high quality and dedication of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Over the years, she has seen advancements made in the areas of person-centered programs, community-based resources, as well as activities for the residents. But, she says the greatest part of the expansion of Opengate services has been the training and promotion of DSPs and staff members.
Ginny relates a recent incident when Geoffrey displayed highly agitated behavior for no apparent reason. He was examined by Peggy, who knows him well, yet nothing physically was found to explain his agitation. In this state he was unable to be still, was very restless, refusing to eat, or sleep. He would often pull suddenly away from his one-to-one staff and take off running the halls. During one such episode, he fell. Following precautionary procedures, he was taken to the emergency room for further appraisal. Part of the examination process was a CAT scan, a test in which you must be very still, obviously a challenge for Geoffrey at this time.
The DSPs who accompanied Geoffrey sat with him and sang to him for over 8 hours so that all procedures could be done successfully. Elijah, Dallas, Earl, and William knew exactly which songs would quiet Geoffrey and they remained beside him singing as he was having the scan.
Ginny says, “Where do you find people like that!? Even during one of the most stressful situations they remained kind and calm, treating him with gentleness and patience.” As it turned out, a minor tweak in Geoffrey’s medication was needed and he is now back to himself.
Continuing her praise for the staff, she has observed over the years that they know each resident, their triggers, and what it takes to calm them when needed, treating them all as unique individuals. They are excellent at helping each resident, reach toward their highest potential. She says one staff member told her that working closely with these individuals has made them a better person, and they learned so much from each other.
Her fondest memories of her time at Opengate is the fact that staff members have helped her son reach toward his potential, that he is comfortable and happy, and receiving the best quality of life available to him.