PITTSBURG — JoDee Bryant started advocating for people with intellectual disabilities over 20 years ago.
Originally from Arcadia, one of her neighbors was a grandmother who cared for her grandchildren who had intellectual disabilities. They would often be ignored or shooed away. JoDee said she didn’t feel that was right and spoke up when people did so.
“They would ride their bicycles all of the time and they would sing and people would push them away and I would go ‘come on over’ and sing with them,” she said. “It took me a while to understand them but after a while I could, so I started advocating for them.”
Then she found that there was a place where she can come to work and do just that.
She started working for what then called Shields, then Bridges and now Mosaic, where she assists consumers with meeting their individual goals and continues to advocate as a direct support staff.
Fast forward more than 20 years and she’s promoted to direct support specialist and is still passionate as ever, she said. JoDee reminisced about the many changes over the years.
“Back then they [the consumers] were kind of hidden, we didn’t go anywhere and if we did, it was just a van ride and now we go everywhere,” she said. “It’s amazing now, from back then to here.”
Over the past two decades JoDee has helped consumers live life to the fullest.
“To me they are my family, and I am going to take care of them and I am going to advocate and help in any way I can to make their lives better and meaningful,” JoDee said.
It might be an everyday thing, where they practice learning words, “we think sometimes it’s going to take forever,” JoDee said, adding that it’s not an easy task, but just like any goal they persevere.
“It could take a year but in that year, they might say that word or letter of the alphabet, but you know what they did it and so we are going to celebrate because they verbally said apple, we’ve been doing it and doing it and doing it,” she said. “Some people give up but you can’t give up.
“It’s very touching when they achieve a goal.”
According to Mosaic Community Relations Manager Jennifer Cardin, it is JoDee’s rapport with the consumers which makes all the difference.
“One of the things about JoDee that makes her an extraordinary direct support staff is that she really takes the time to get to know the people she supports and she doesn’t put any limits on their goals,” Jennifer said. “She pushes them to be the best they can and when others may look and see limitations, she sees they can accomplish so much more and puts in the time.”
Because of this, Mosaic - Southeast Kansas put in a nomination to the American Network of Community Options and Resources, which recognizes one person from each state for their efforts as direct support professionals. They chose JoDee. JoDee recently traveled to Portland for the award ceremony.
“We are incredibly proud we of JoDee, being selected and winning the award is a huge honor … we are really proud of her and she’s really good to the individuals,” Executive Director Leslie Lackamp said.
JoDee said she plans to continue to be an advocate for her consumers, no matter what it takes.
“I never dreamed to be recognized for something I love to do,” JoDee said adding she was shocked.