Over my 30 years here at Riverwood, I have learned many things. Not just spiritual things from my friends, but also state regulations, Social Security laws, regulations from the Department of Human Services, and Housing Urban Development. (just to name a few). Recently, I have had to learn about nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and all the ups and downs of placement.
As most of you know, Tom K. moved to Riverwood in August of 1986. He had been adopted by Clyde and Lois and has no other family other than his family here at Riverwood. Of all the residents here at Riverwood, I’ve always thought that Tom was the loneliest. Tom was the very first resident I met back in 1989.
I will never forget that meeting. I walked into the door of Riverwood and he was standing at the dining room door wearing a chef’s hat, apron, and oven mitt. He had this sheepish grin on his face and said, “Who are you?” I replied,” Hello, my name is Rhonna and I’ve come to work with you.” He said, “Well hello to you too, I’m Tom, I’m the head cook!” and with that, my love for Tom began.
We have developed quite a unique friendship over the years. We’ve been through the loss of both of his parents and some of his friends here at Riverwood. We have laughed together and we have cried together. Mostly I do the crying. I’ve only seen Tom cry twice, once at his mother’s passing, and then just recently when I had to tell him that he couldn’t live at Riverwood anymore.
Over the last several years, his decline in his health has taken a toll and his needs were beginning to exceed the level of care that we are allowed to give by law. We began looking for alternative placement in October of 2018. I called several facilities, sent numerous faxes in regard to Tom’s history, and yet no one responded. We prayed and prayed that we could find a place that would love and understand the way that we do at Riverwood. In April, the Lord opened the door for him to be moved to a place close by.
Initially, his adjustment was anything but easy. Tom isn’t always the friendliest of guys, and he certainly wasn’t making it easy on anyone who came in contact with him. I kept assuring everyone that if they could just see past those things and get to know Tom as he really is, they would fall in love with him as I did.
I am now happy to say that Tom has adjusted to being in his new facility. I thank God for the staff who took the time and had the patience to love Tom through this difficult time. We miss Tom at Riverwood more than words can say. In my visits with Tom, I’ve met several of his new friends. One gentleman whose name is Tom as well, always asks me this question, (about 6 times in a row…): “Are you Gary’s sister?”
My reply is “This is Tom, and no I am not his sister. I am his friend.”
In August of 1989, Rhonna was hired by the as a part-time resident manager and has worked her way up to the position of Director of Residential Services of the Riverwood Campus. Before coming to Riverwood, Rhonna attended Johnson University where she became involved in the Disability Ministry program. The residents of Riverwood refer to her as “Momma Rhonna” or “the other mother.”