Wendy remembers what it felt like to be on the outside. A childhood illness left her with a deformity on her foot required frequent surgeries and long hospital stays. She often spent time on crutches. Outside can be a lonely place.
“I remember being different and not being able to do what other kids did,” she recalls.
Wendy’s experiences as a child have helped her to develop a keen sense of compassion for people who live on the margins. These experiences also led her to pursue service-oriented jobs throughout her 30-year career: working with young offenders, individuals with traumatic brain injuries, developing programs for people with developmental disabilities or serving as a teacher’s assistant for a young boy with autism.
For the last ten years, Wendy has worked for Communitas Supportive Care Society, a faith-based organization that cares for people with developmental disabilities. She began as a residential support worker and then as the manager at a residence for adults with developmental disabilities.
Today, Wendy is the manager at Matthew’s House, a home that provides quality respite care for children with complex care needs. Because of the disabilities with which they live, these children are often on the outside. Their parents also live a life that’s different from the norm. They cannot participate in many of the activities that their friends do because their lives revolve around the high medical or behavioural needs of their children. It often leaves them feeling isolated and exhausted – something Wendy wishes others could fully appreciate.
People often do not understand that these parents are never at baseline but always under stress. They don’t realize that these children will always need support – they will rarely grow up to be independent adults. Wendy Toohey, manager
Hearing the family’s stories, seeing them come back from a break more relaxed is rewarding. She has seen first-hand the difference that Matthew’s House makes, knowing that the opportunity for respite serves to strengthen marriages and families as a whole.
“My favourite part of this job is helping families get a break and watching their children, happy and engaged,” she says.
Wendy also gets great satisfaction watching her staff interact with the children who visit Matthew’s House. She values the supportive team that has developed there and knows that her staff are growing in their appreciation for and understanding of what parents deal with. It is also gratifying when they make a connection with a child.
“Most of the children who visit us are non-verbal and have difficulty expressing their needs,” she says. “When I make that connection or see one of my staff do so, it gives me joy in my heart.”
When you give a gift to Matthew’s House, you are making an investment in children, in marriages, and in families. Your gift helps us hire staff like Wendy and her team, who serve families with care and compassion. Making a donation to Matthew’s House brings families like these in from the outside, to a place of rest and renewal.
Make a difference to families today.