About a decade ago, several parents of residents in New Danville’s Meadowbrook community came together to build a concept that would provide New Danville residents with a variety of experiences that built relationships, expanded socialization opportunities, and furthered the concept of community in New Danville. The bricks of commitment, creativity, and conviction were bound together with a mortar of compassion. They built a nonprofit called Legally Authorized Representative Alliance (LARA).
LARA president Diana Egley said, “New Danville clients, like anyone else, want to feel valued and to be able to contribute, as well as develop strong relationships. LARA was created to help make that happen.” Diana was one of the founders of LARA. “We have been purpose-driven from the beginning,” she said.
Originally created to serve the needs of residents, LARA’s efforts have benefited both the residents and the day program attendees.
Connie Mahaffey, one of LARA’s founders, said, “The Wranglers (day program attendees) and residents see LARA members as friends. They come to us with ideas and sometimes come to us with questions. Those relationships are built by doing so much together. This year, we will take residents who are interested to Crighton Theater to see a production of Elf.”
LARA has adapted the many things its volunteers do to the needs of New Danville clients and the conditions of the times. Needless to say, their plans, like everyone else’s, have changed significantly in 2020 and 2021. “We have kept our plans open for 2022,” Diana said, “until we know what conditions will allow.”
Adapting and being flexible have been a key element of LARA’s success. Kathy Hertzog joined LARA about a year after its formation. She said, “In the beginning, we held dinners in the residents’ homes so people could get to know each other and build a stronger sense of community. Residents realized that LARA volunteers were truly interested in their successful independence.”
Connie added, “The dinners in homes later became monthly birthday bashes. Each month we have a party to celebrate all the resident birthdays of the month. We have dinner, bingo, and various games that provide opportunities to win gift cards and other prizes.”
Kathy shared that many things people take for granted are new or unknown to the clients. “As friends to the clients, we provide a safe, accessible resource of information or outlet for sharing.”
Over the years, LARA has hosted parties; taken field trips to Buccee’s, Disney on Ice, and various theater productions; held Christmas Market events; and much more. “We want them to be able to do something they would never have the opportunity to do otherwise,” Diana said.
No matter what 2022 and beyond holds, it is clear that LARA and its supporters will continue to bring fun, socialization, relationships, and independence to New Danville residents and clients. The most important thing they always deliver is love.