header image

Get to Know: Sandy Deare-Robinson (Part 2)

Note: This is the second part of our conversation with Sandy. Don’t miss part 1 of our conversation with Sandy here.

How would you describe the work you do at Nonotuck? 

We are integrating individuals into communities, helping them pursue their desired activities and achievements, securing jobs, engaging in projects, participating in physical activities, and exploring various endeavors. Our approach is person-centered, bridging the gap between individuals and their communities. We connect people, fostering relationships and encouraging them to venture into activities they wouldn't typically consider, taking risks and experiencing personal growth.

By leveraging our community and theirs, individuals secure jobs and engage in volunteer projects they love, becoming integral parts of these initiatives for years. This includes dance activities, shows, and interactions within the community, such as shopping, taking walks, and sharing meals. There are notable success stories, including individuals initially hesitant or unable to leave their homes due to fear and anxiety.

Over time, they have overcome these challenges, actively exploring activities and achieving remarkable personal growth. Initially limited to sitting in and doing nothing beyond their usual routine, they now participate in a variety of activities, from creating flower walls to taking walks, shopping, going to movies, and bowling. The community has witnessed significant growth, with individuals forming meaningful relationships both within and outside the program. Even during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic, our turnover rate has remained minimal, reflecting the enduring commitment of our staff and participants.

The impact of our program is evident in the transformation of individuals like Carrie {a program participant}, who initially had limited availability but, through her dedication, not only earned the admiration of coworkers and customers at Goodwill but also maximized her earnings on the days she worked. Such success stories inspire others to embrace meaningful volunteer projects, creating a sense of purpose and connection among participants. 

Our focus is on recognizing individuals' skills, gifts, and talents, encouraging them to flourish and be seen within the community. The result is a profound difference in the lives of both program participants and the community at large, fostering love, acceptance, and meaningful connections. 

As an example, during a recent trip to the dollar store with Renee {a program participant}, the cashier's face lit up upon seeing her, brightening the atmosphere in the store. This small interaction in a long line highlights the positive impact our program has on individuals and the broader community, reinforcing the notion that our efforts are a positive force for everyone involved.

What is something you bring to the table at Nonotuck?

My uniqueness—I don’t really perceive it as work. I acknowledge that it is work, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit someone's house, where they eagerly await. It transforms into a connection right from the door, as I prepare myself, knowing that I'm about to engage in something people genuinely enjoy. 

It's about sharing what I love and discovering if there's something they might enjoy too. I view people as individuals, which makes the entire process so much smoother. I see their hearts and their imperfections. I have my own shortcomings, and the acceptance I receive is something I cherish; I love them for it. My desire is to witness people flourishing, and it's in my heart to do whatever I can to facilitate that or bridge any gaps. 

Whether people are feeling up or down, I hope to lift them up through a song, a kind word, or a comforting touch. This connection is innate within me; it's my heartfelt intention. Even a simple trip to the store, hearing a song, or observing people dance and express themselves freely brings me joy. 

I don't mind going out and dancing myself; it has shaped me more than it has shaped the people I work with. I take pleasure in bringing others along with me. I remained dormant for so long, unaware that I could just be free to be myself, without judgment or criticism.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I enjoy spending time with my family. As a Shared Living Provider (SLP), I also cherish moments with my girlfriend, Amanda. We share interests such as listening to music, going out to explore, taking walks, visiting tracks and trails, watching movies, and attending shows. I appreciate being out, but I also savor home time. Being at home with my husband, Eddie, my kids, and my son when he’s home from college is special. We bond over watching movies, having pizza, enjoying wings, and playing games. My family includes my husband Eddie, my daughter Malyah, my one-month-old grandbaby Omavi, my son Craig, who’s in college and returns home for holidays and summers, our cat Bella (affectionately known as Bells), and of course, Amanda.

What does ‘caregiving with love’ mean to you?

 It means vulnerability, connection; it means safety, a safe place, admiration, gratitude, fulfilling, thankfulness, warmth, acceptance.

Any closing words? 

I would just say that working for Nonotuck has been one of the best jobs I’ve had in my whole life. I know I’m still young, but this is the longest I’ve worked anywhere. I was a cashier before, and Nonotuck has been one of the best jobs, from the management team all the way down to George {Fleischner, Nonotuck President/CEO}

It’s been easy to do our job, working and fulfilling our roles in the day program with the teams that we have. From the higher-ups, I’m able to pour so much into the people I supervise and support. It’s just our culture, how we do things. With every piece of paperwork that we do in business, it’s been rewarding to work with this company that cares so much for the people we’re supporting. We’re able to implement things because of what we get from the top, including the marketing team; it all connects. It’s such a rewarding feeling to work for this company. Nonotuck has been truly amazing. 

I’ve been able to raise my kids as a single mom, get married, become a SLP. I’m able to see growth in myself as well. It’s a busy place, and it’s a lot to come up with the makeup of who we are. I’m truly grateful and thankful. I also like to pray. I pray for us as a whole – a job, a company, an agency. I live that; I truly appreciate everything Nonotuck stands for. We have a good culture here.


Find out more about Shared Living

“(Through shared living) people with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.”

Caregiving with Love:
Guide for Shared Living Providers

Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.

 Visit Our Youtube Channel