Guest Voices – October 2021

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).

L-R:  Diana Egley, Kathy Hertzog , Connie Mahaffey

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.

Guest Voices – September 2021

James Scott, Direct Support Professional

I learned a lot about working with people with IDD in high school. Not where I attended, but where I worked. It was while working with special needs students at College Park High School that I learned about New Danville. I started here full-time in 2009, though I worked part-time here for a bit before.

I was not unfamiliar with special needs – I have a nephew who is an adult with IDD – but knowing about it is not the same as working with it. The Wranglers have taught me so much about myself and life. My nephew knows that I work here and I think he likes that.

After a career stint in the pharma industry, I took a job at the high school where I served as a job coach, helping students and employers in ways that provided meaningful jobs to the students. The work was so rewarding, but, all of it has been and is.

People ask me to name which of the many roles that I have had at New Danville is my favorite. I can’t do that. I love it all, but I do have a special appreciation for the team that was the lawn crew many years ago. A team of Wranglers took care of cutting and edging around here. Can you believe that? They took such great pride in the work. Eventually, there was too much to be done for a devoted crew to handle.

It is rewarding to see Wrangler’s bloom. They are the most honest, open, fair-minded, unprejudiced, candid people. They see others for who they are. I appreciate that Wranglers trust me as a sounding board when they encounter people or situations that stresses them or seem confusing. It works because we are all family at New Danville.  Families aren’t perfect, but they’re special…and we’re family here.

Guest Voices – August 2021

John Massey, Direct Support Professional

It was great timing that led me to New Danville.  My daughter, Julia, was born a few months before I retired from Southwestern Bell in Houston.  After five years of being Mr. Mom, I was needing something new to do. My sister, Kathy Sanders, had gotten some miniature horses to start a program for special needs adults. She asked if I would like to learn about horses and help her get the program started. Loving the outdoors, it was the perfect retirement job for me.

I love working with the Wranglers, watching their growth and accomplishments. I enjoy watching them learn, and I feel that I have learned a lot working here, too. I learned about patience, though I come from a laid back, patient family; I learned more patience here. The most important thing I’ve learned is to be thankful for the little things in life and to be thankful for helping create a place where the Wranglers can come and be themselves.

My time at New Danville has shown me that there are so many high-functioning adults with special needs who need a place to meet new friends and learn new things.

Another thing learned working with the Wranglers is something I wish everyone, everywhere could learn:  tolerance. Tolerance of others, who they are and how they are would go a long way in this world. None of the people with special needs asked to be the way they are, but I believe when they get to heaven there will be no disabilities.

John Massey has been with New Danville since its inception. He works primarily in the animal therapy program, but also has led music and song with the Wranglers singing and signing while he plays guitar.

What began as a prayer ended up being a blessing

Sherry Franklin, Retired
What began as a prayer ended up being a blessing.

It was 2007 and I was looking for a part-time job to help fill some gaps as I tried to start my own business. I put the need on a prayer list and at a meeting with a church group I was told of a part-time position at a new business close to my home. That business was New Danville, which I had not heard of, so I applied for the job as a driver. I guess I have held a dozen roles since then, and each one has helped make me a better person. The Wranglers have a way of doing that.

In about three years, I was working full-time in the day program. I guess most people think of me as the “woodshop lady,” which began at about that time. One of our board members made pens and we picked up the project in our woodshop. And to think, we’re now looking at making distinctive executive pens as one of our job creators. It was in pen making that we created the “Ooops Box” where mistakes in making were placed. The Wranglers realized that it is okay to make mistakes.  Oooops.  Put it in the box and move on.

So much has changed over the years, and I am proud to have been part of it all.  People have said that I was a “Jill of All Trades,” and it felt that way at times.  I had the pleasure of doing so many different assignments. Each one had a way of shaping me and teaching me a lot about life and about others. There were times when I was driving routes that some of the Wranglers would get in the van and it was clear that they had had a rough start to their day at home. I was determined to help give them a new, brighter start to their day.  That gave me a brighter start to my days, too.

At different times over the years, people – friends and family – would encourage me to look at other job opportunities. I couldn’t. There is nothing like working here. It chokes me up when I reflect on how much this job, the Wranglers, and everyone I’ve worked with here has meant to me.  But, it’s family, so no wonder.

I didn’t know anything about this world, the world of adults with IDD, when I began working at New Danville. I’ve learned so much along the way. I’ve learned how to do a variety of jobs, and I’ve learned patience for myself. I wished everyone could learn what I have learned by working with the Wranglers and the New Danville family: be nice, slow down, strike up conversations with people with IDD – they are funny, insightful  — and listen. Listening…it goes a long way.

Sherry began her career at New Danville in 2007 as a part-time driver. Her work ethic, empathy and compassion moved her through a multitude of roles. She resigned in June 2021 but will remain in the hearts and lives of the New Danville family.

I got married twice. On the same day.



Nicole Martinez, Program Coordinator
I got married twice. On the same day. I did it because I wanted all my friends to be part of my special day, and my friends are the Wranglers of New Danville. My then-fiancé suggested we have two weddings because he could tell something about our wedding plans that was bothering me. Who would have thought that a receptionist job in a field that I had never been in before would affect me so?  Not me, that’s for sure.  But, it has.

Because of a forced career change, I sought the help of a temp agency to find a job. I received a call after my interview with the agency rep; she called me while I was still in the parking lot after the interview. She said that she felt I should check out a receptionist position at New Danville. “Look them up before you go,” she said. I did. I saw a photo of Seth, one of the Wranglers, and I was moved. I had never heard of New Danville and when I arrived for my interview, I thought “Is that a barn?” The environment here is wonderful.
I was turned down for the job, actually. The then-CEO thought the job would not challenge me enough. But before I made it back to my car…I decided. I returned and told her that I wanted the job and that I would do the best I could. My heart told me I wanted this job, and one of the pleasures of the job is having a team of people who have that heart, too. Together we provide a safe place where the Wranglers can be themselves.

I don’t just enjoy my work. I am “in joy” working here. It seems like everyone is. And that is why I had two weddings.
My friends, the Wranglers, knew about my wedding. They asked for invitations. I couldn’t not invite them, but the regular wedding would not provide them the specialness that they give me all the time. So, with my fiancé’s support, we held a wedding at New Danville. My makeup stylist agreed to do the bridesmaid’s makeup, everyone got invitations and learned how to RSVP, they got dressed up for the day, one Wrangler gave me away, Wranglers served as ushers and groomsmen and maids of honor…we even had our own version of “Say Yes to the Dress” when I took some of the girls with me to pick out the dress. I had so much support from vendors and services. My friends here do so much for me every day that I had to do something special for, and with them.
My wedding is a love story unlike most. Not only the love story of my husband and me, but also the love story of me and my New Danville friends.

Nicole Martinez joined New Danville in October 2016. She quickly gained new responsibilities and now leads our day programs, known as day habilitation.

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