I Am a Voice for Others

By Tammy Presnall, Assistant Director of Support Living
Luther Home of Mercy
Guest Column

Tammy Presnall has worked with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for most of her adult career. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Gerontology and a Masters in Administration. In her work she supervises a staff of direct support providers, provides training and ensures the smooth delivery of services. Tammy is married and resides in Toledo, Ohio.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”            –Maya Angelou

At Luther Home of Mercy (LHM), a faith-friendly organization serving Lucas, Ottawa, Wood and Sandusky counties, our dynamic staff work round-the-clock to bring out the best in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Since 1928, LHM has been offering extensive residential facilities, pastoral care, day programming, community housing, and supportive living.  Tailored to meet individual needs, services range from just a few hours each day to 24-hour care. Several programs are offered affording those we serve to live as they choose, while providing the support needed to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

Over the years, I have come to work with many people in my role as Assistant Director of Supportive Living Services and to form friendships that have impacted my life. Sue is one of those friends. A 1961 graduate of Central Catholic, Sue really is a friend to everyone she meets. Friends say she is a social butterfly and she doesn’t mind that at all!

Before Covid-19, Sue volunteered at Advent Day Program, participated in a Bible study group with her friends and invited former classmates over for fun. According to Sue, “I love being with people and living here gives me every opportunity I need. The staff are great and I am well cared for.”

For more than four years, I have worked with Sue and others in her home. I am asked often—“what makes you love your job?”  I can honestly say that it is people like Sue and all of the clients I work with who bring sunshine to my life.  Others say, Tammy, you have the patience of Job—and I simply say, “not really, I just love working with people with disabilities.”

Rewarding, genuine and caring friendships like this are hard to define.  Working with people with disabilities keeps me humble.  This population gives me a greater understanding that life is not just about me.

Life is about caring, sharing and loving (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).  Giving back does not have to be just monetary gifts.  It can also mean giving your time. When one gives his or her time, blessings come back 10 fold.  I am a living testimony of the blessings that I have received over the years working with this population. From time to time, my husband reminds me that I am servant by nature. Resonating on his words, I guess I am a servant by nature, because I love to serve. I could have chosen many different career paths, but it was meant for me to stay on this path.

On my journey in life, I have studied many fields of disciplines from nursing to psychology. It was not until I stumbled upon the field of Gerontology (study of the aging) that I found a calling. I knew that I loved to surround myself with elders, because they had so much knowledge and not necessarily schooling, but life knowledge that I could learn from.

While pursuing my degree, I needed to work as most college students need to. That is when I started working in the intellectual and developmental disability field. And it is where I found my love and passion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It makes me feel good to see my clients smiles—even from the littlest gestures. One of my clients that I work with, sees me, and instantly asks me to help him get a cup of coffee. To me, this is his way of showing that it is time for the two of us to hang out and spend time together.

Another client whose vocabulary is limited, always share a joke, and engage in conversation whenever we are together. Even though his vocabulary is limited and difficult to understand, I am able to understand him. Staff would ask me, “How do you understand him?”  I often respond, that he and I have a special bond. Giving him the attention makes him feel good and it makes me feel good seeing I was able to put a smile on his face from our interaction.

Many of the individuals we serve do not have family close by, so staff becomes their family and best friend.  These clients are my extended family too, and I treat them as such.  My passion for the field has taught me the love of my clients, wanting to get to know them more, as well as being their voice even when they can’t speak.  Everyone has a right to a voice, whether they are verbal or not.  I am my client’s voice. I invite you to consider joining us at Luther Home of Mercy—where you can also become a voice and a new best friend!