BY Joseph G. Melton.

Hello friends.  My name is Joseph G. Melton.  Most of my friend’s just call me Joe.  I am a volunteer here at Freedom Valley Disability Center. A place that helped me a lot in reaching my full potential. Both, as a Consumer. And, as a free thinking Person.

But, it wasn’t just Freedom Valley, that brought about this change. To further understand what I am talking about, let’s go back to the year 2006, When my life first started to change.

See, up until after my Father died, I was living the life of a 12 year old. No matter how old I was. I was trying to please everyone. I tried to obey rules that everybody set of me but they were the rules a child uses, even after I Graduated High School, at the late age of 20!

See, because of my Handicap, I could not get out, with any of the other kids. Or, hold down a regular job. That was a real shame, because, I wanted to be a Teacher. So, that is when I started writing. Writing, was then and is now a comfort to me.

Anyhow, after my Father died, that is when I started growing up. I was more responsible. More of an Adult.  That was also the year that I noticed my Mother slowly going into Dementia. And, not knowing what it was, I was slowly going out of my mind.

So, the next year, we moved in with my older brother. That is where I was given more opportunity to grow up, and, led later to my introduction to Freedom Valley. Keep in mind, that due to my Mother’s deteriorating condition, I was in a state of depression. A depression I pulled out of, with, believe it or not, the help of getting into a car accident.

One Sunday, we were going to Church. Mom wanted to go to our old Church.  Anyway, as we went onto Concord & Cheyney Rd, another car, with a Student Driver behind the wheel, decided to turn left, hitting us dead on. And, sending us all, to the Hospital.

As I was laying on the Operating table, waiting to get X-Rayed, it suddenly hit me;

“Hey, look moron! You have been following these rules for a 12 year old for so long! It is about time you did what YOU felt like doing. If you want to grow that Goatee, DO IT! Don’t let anyone stop you from doing whatever you want to do. It is about time you acted like you were 47, and not 12 year’s old!

Three Month’s after that, my Sister-in-Law drove me down to Freedom Valley Disability Center. It is at Freedom Valley that I would meet the people who I would now call my other family. {Some of those people have since moved on.} But, as I found out, change, can be a good thing.

As I mentioned, when I was introduced to Freedom Valley I was very new to the working world. I had no Idea what to expect. Or, no Idea what the people at Freedom Valley expected of me.

I also learned, in my first few months there, that there were people at Freedom Valley with Cerebral Palsy. Well that proved to me that, I could have been working. Because, even with CP, And, in Wheel Chairs, these two people made it look easy. One of these people, is still here.

When I signed onto Freedom Valley, as a Volunteer, it was originally for One day. Then one became two. And it stayed that way, for a while. I started out, answering the phones. Then, one day, while I was talking to a consumer. And, jotting down the information, Ann took notice of how well I was doing that Job. And, that became my permanent station, for a while.  I also helped out with the News Letter, “The Freedom Express.” I was given a byline, and a column called The Road to Independence. I named my first Article “Day of Independence.” I was also involved in their Reach Out Meetings. {Being one of the Authors of the Freedom Express.}

Sometimes, I even go on trip’s with FVDC to Harrisburg. To talk with State Representatives about the budget. (And, I must say, I did better this year, than I did the other two that I went.)

But, a few Month’s later, sadly, I had to leave Freedom Valley. Due to a few changes.

One big change in my life was a sudden move that we had to make. Last February, we had to move from my brother’s house, to an Assisted Living Facility. So, I made an agreement, with my brother’s, that I would stay home, for a couple of months. So I could take care of Mom.

In my 3 Month vacation, things at Freedom Valley changed. Upon my return, I found that three people had left, and 2 people were hired. Jack the new Receptionist, and Lauren, {who has become, not only, one of my best friend’s, but, a fan of my writing.}

I also had another group of friend’s that I called family, The people at Sun Rise.

I like it here, at Freedom Valley. I find everybody here to be very nice. Oh sure, sometimes, we have our little tiffs, and disagreements.  But, then again, don’t all families have them at one time, or another?

As a Volunteer here, at Freedom Valley, I am learning job skills that I should have had, 30 years ago. I will be a volunteer 3 years this June. Also, as a Volunteer, I am a Mentor to others, who are just starting out. {Just like Stewart was, and still is, to me.} I also make it a point, every 6 Months, to check with Ann, and Mike, to see how the job situation is going, Because, hopefully, One day, I will be a paid worker, here, at Freedom Valley Disability Center.