SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY B. SCOTT MOHR Under the guidance of iPassport’s staff, clients like Vincent (second from left) are building a rowboat. Vincent, who said he really enjoys working on the boat, is seen with (from left) operations manager Mary Worline, owner Marty Worline and recreational therapist Alexis Reed. Marty Worline noted that Vincent is pretty good with a hand saw.
The center’s resident pet is Sky the turtle, which is held by Sarah. Her fellow clients are (from left) Austin, Vincent, Gunner and Grant.
By B. Scott Mohr Associate editor
Companion Care Co., a business that provides in-home services for the elderly and mentally challenged, has expanded its scope to offer a unique group program for the developmentally disabled. Launched earlier this year in Greenwood, iPassport places a heavy emphasis on socialization, which plays an integral role in clients living healthy, fulfilled lives. It is that belief that has formed the basis for most programs.
Marty Worline, who has owned the company since 2004, said the program fills the void for the highly functioning disabled. “They do meaningful things here,” he said. “We challenge them, and everything they do makes them more independent. Our participants are proud of their accomplishments. They are excited to come here, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. I have noticed that they are becoming more self-directed.
“We’ve had some cool successes. One of our participants just sat at home and played video games all day before he came here. He was an introvert, but he came out of his shell. He’s inquisitive and will introduce himself to you. Now he wants to know what he and his dad are going to do on the weekend.” An average day at the center, which features a warm environment, starts around 9 a.m. with the clients planning their lunch menu before heading off to the grocery store. This activity stresses teamwork and budgeting.
Upon returning from the store, it’s activity time until lunch needs to be prepared. And once the meal is ready, everyone sits down to eat in an orderly fashion.
“We are really big on manners,” said Worline, who added that a few of his clients are becoming good cooks. “Some of them are now cooking for their families, and they made some good granola for our open house.” Afternoons are filled with more learning and challenging activities. “We don’t have a real rigid schedule, but we have high expectations. Every new skill and choice they make brings them closer to finding their independence,” said Worline.
The iPassport program – a gateway to independence – was developed by Worline and his staff, but the clients have the final say when it comes to their outings, and that, he said, builds self-confidence. The group – there are about 10 people in the program, with five finishing paperwork to join – went to the Indiana State Fair, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Colts’ training camp and rock climbing over the summer. The clients were involved in all aspects of planning the trips, from determining the mode of transportation, the routes and dates and how much money was required. Upon returning from a trip, their “passport” is stamped.
The Dream Chips initiative allows staff members to pinpoint the clients’ interests so they can focus on activities that really mean something to them. Goal setting, overcoming communication barriers and decreasing poor behavioral problems are also important parts of the program.
One of their current endeavors has them building a rowboat. Worline said he has always had a passion for woodworking, and his clients thought it would be a neat undertaking. “Vincent and Gunner really like working on it. We’ll start on the oars before long. We plan on putting it in the water in the spring.”
Recreational therapy also plays a vital role in everyday activities, and therapists work with clients independently or in small groups to help restore motor, social and cognitive skills. The areas of focus vary upon a person’s needs and interests.
Programs in development include a coffee shop where clients will sell their baked goods to the public, gardening to raise and sell vegetables and herbs at a farmers market and creating artwork to be sold at art fairs.
“Not only do we want to go out in the public,” said Worline, “we want to be a part of it.” Mary Worline, his operations manager and daughter-in-law, said she is fortunate to be in a profession that is fun and rewarding. “We are seeing a lot of progress in our participants.”
Clients, who need to be Medicaid-waved, fill out a time sheet before going home so they can show their parents or guardians what they did during the day. Quarterly meetings are held to determine a person’s progress and if any changes need to be made.
The center is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, but those hours will be expanded in a couple of weeks to include evenings and weekends. More information is available by calling 625-8605.
University of Indianapolis professor David Wantz, whose doctoral psychology students have created programs to stimulate the clients’ communication skills, has high praise for the center. “I was at the open house,” said Wantz, who also serves as special assistant to UIndy President Robert Manuel. I was amazed at the creativity I saw. But the coolest thing is that they are building a boat. One that will float and can be rowed.”
Wantz’s son, Jacob, receives in-home services from Companion Care and will soon enroll in the iPassport program.
These intellectually impaired adults have hopes and dreams, too, said Wantz. “They are the most overlooked people in our community.”