When the pandemic made it challenging for local residents with developmental disabilities to experience real community connections, Megan, a 28-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, had a solution.
Experiencing her own loneliness due to the pandemic, Megan also yearned to help others who were dealing with the same feelings. Her dream job? An online support group for people with disabilities.
Snohomish County’s Eagle Wings helped make her dream come true, and Megan’s abilities were maximized with both funding and a supervisor to help bring the project to life.
“It was so exciting for us – she is helping us serve her, and she adds wisdom and perspective into our organization. It is so powerful!” says Kinder Smoots, Executive Director of Eagle Wings Ministries.
Approximately 8.5 percent of the Snohomish County population are adults like Megan, who live with a developmental disability. Yet while making up a sizable portion of the population, these residents are often visibly absent from the community, perhaps requiring full-time caregivers for day-to-day tasks.
One issue that many of these people face is a need that we all crave: caring and ongoing relationships within the community. This is the mission of Eagle Wings.
“Authentic relationships benefit these adults on so many levels – having friends and knowing people, offering hope, showing that your community is here and we care about you,” Smoots says.
In pre-pandemic times, Eagle Wings would routinely organize programs for the 2,200 adults they serve. Large celebrations featured substantial volunteer-run dinners, often welcoming more than 200 adults with developmental disabilities, plus family and/or a caregiver.
“It’s a safe space, a place to get meals, for everyone to connect and experience love,” Smoots says.
However, when COVID arrived and a need for connection became more important than ever, Eagle Wings began to find other ways to connect its community members.
“We continued Project ‘Hello’, a phone calling program that allowed people to stay in touch with others who were now confined in their homes,” Smoots says.
The program was successful and supported by food deliveries, mailing of cards, and home-delivered arts and crafts. Zoom has become the norm within the organization’s Life Groups and Bible studies. In person education, outreach, and training for future volunteers coming to the forefront.
“Continued education and awareness about how to interact with these amazing community members have the possibility to change our capacity to love and forgive; not just for the people we serve but also for our community,” Smoots says.
Still, during the holidays, when many cherish their families and friends, but have no opportunity to celebrate, Smoots was pleased to be able to have a Christmas dinner for 75 adults.
“We’re not used to smaller numbers, but the importance of social circles is vastly important…I would do it just for one person.”
Eagle Wings is proudly supported by Protocol Plumbing and Larry’s Plumbing & Supply.