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Getting on Board: Fred Bona

Nonotuck Resource Associates’ board of directors is made up of a mix of parents and professionals, each of whom provides an important perspective to the organization. Board members provide advice, help raise funds, and serve as stewards, keeping Nonotuck strong and focused on its mission to help people with disabilities have a choice, a voice and the opportunity to live authentic lives.

Fred Bona joined Nonotuck Resource Associates’ board of directors in 1992 when his daughter, Carrie, was in her 20s. Carrie, now 52, was moving into a group home and Bona wanted to stay closely involved in her care.

“I'd been involved prior to different things in this state with education for my daughter,” Bona said during a recent conversation. “I knew that parents really need to get involved. So that's how I decided to go on the board.”

Alfred Bona 2.jpgBona, who has served as the chairman of the board for around 20 years, was with Nonotuck when the organization made the switch to shared living, moving people from group homes into homes with care providers where they would live together and share their lives in an authentic, loving and respectful relationship of mutual dependence. Bona said Carrie’s mother, Dale Bona, was nervous about the switch, but the couple visited other shared living households and soon realized how beneficial the arrangement could be. (Fred and Dale Bona are pictured at right with Carrie.)

“Once we went to a few shared living homes, and we saw how much better it was, it was a complete sell,” Bona said. 

Though Carrie can’t speak, she uses a communication device, and was able to choose her own caregiver. She and Angela have now been together in a shared living household for about 20 years. Bona called it a “marriage made in heaven.”

George H. Fleischner, president and CEO of Nonotuck, said Dale Bona, who passed away in August of 2018, became Nonotuck’s biggest supporter of shared living. 

“She would often talk to other parents about the value of the service,” he said. “Dale was as honest a person could be. She never backed away from the truth.”

“There never was a better friend than Dale,” he added. “Fred and Dale were a remarkable couple. We miss her dearly.”

Fred Bona said his many years of involvement with the board have helped provide an important perspective to the organization — that of the parents and families of those receiving care through Nonotuck.

“I keep trying to get a good representation of parents, but it's very difficult to do,” he said, noting some parents just don’t have the time to devote to board meetings. “We try to have at least some numbers of the board members to give that information and to try to keep the balance there.”

Besides being Carrie’s dad, Bona said he doesn’t bring any special experience to the board. He owned an auto repair shop for 50 years before retiring in 2008.  

“But I knew I had to be involved for the betterment of my daughter,” he said.

Fleischner said Bona’s perspective was invaluable to the board. 

“Fred, with over 50 years of insight and understanding of what it means to be a parent of a disabled child, brings a fierce advocacy for Carrie and all the other people we serve across the state,” Fleischner said. “For 20 years I’ve leaned on Fred for support and advice. I admire and love Fred. He is one of the most compassionate and caring men I know.”

Bona said his goal has been to provide a voice for parents and the people served and to help the organization manage its growth.

“We have steady growth, where it's getting bigger and bigger,” Bona said. “I want to make sure we don't get too big, so we can take care of our people as well as we have in the past.”

“(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.”

—Jean Vanier

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.

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