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Shared Moments: Celebrating Three Decades of Connection Through Shared Living

Recently, Thomas Joyce and Ron Campbell reached a momentous milestone: 30 years of sharing a home together. Their relationship dates back to the early 1980s, when they first met at a group home where Tom was working, and Ron was living. Ron’s family was among the founding families of Nonotuck, originally known as Community Homes for Children, which was established in 1972 and initially focused on group homes for people with disabilities.

When CEO/President George H. Fleischner led the charge to convert Nonotuck from a group home model to a shared living model in the early 90s, the opportunity was too good for Tom to resist. “George’s vision for shared living, and his inspiration, fire, and motivation to actually transform the whole agency into that model, really allowed us to have this incredible opportunity that I knew right away was a gift,” he says.

We recently asked Thomas what 30 years of Shared Living is like, from day-to-day existence to adventures big and small.

“When Ron and I celebrated our 30 years together, it really hit home how the Shared Living Model at Nonotuck offers us something special: Time Together. It's not just the years, but the quality time that lets us enjoy life at our own pace.

Our days are pretty leisurely. Before Ron heads out to his day programs, we have relaxed mornings. In the evenings, we're out shopping at local co-ops, eating out at places like Pulse Cafe, or enjoying a calm walk or bike ride. While driving, Ron loves to listen to chanting recordings, and that's perfect because it gives me a peaceful backdrop for my meditation when we get home. Ron might watch some nature videos on YouTube—waterfalls, mountain streams—which helps both of us unwind.

Ron is nonverbal, so there’s a quiet to our life together, a peaceful kind of silence. Over the years, we've developed a way of understanding each other that goes beyond words. Ron’s got a fantastic sense of humor; he might start smiling or laughing, and sometimes it's clear what's amusing him, other times it’s a bit of a guess. But that smile? It’s always a good sign. 

One day, something amazing happened. We were at a local airport in Northampton where we often hung out, and Ron suddenly grabbed my hand and led me over to a small plane parked nearby. He kicked the tire, and that got me thinking—maybe he wanted to fly. We started with scenic flights, which became regular adventures, taking us as far as New Hampshire, Cape Cod, Long Island, and Rhode Island. 

From there, our adventures grew—tandem biking, canoeing, and even getting a big blue inflatable raft. We've explored parks like Look Park in Northampton and DAR State Park in Goshen. We’ve vacationed by the ocean, taken day trips to the beach, and even traveled to California for a meditation retreat I was attending.

All these adventures stem from the freedom and the one-on-one time the shared living model provides. In a group home, it's harder to have these personal discoveries. But living together, just the two of us, we've been able to explore and find out not just what Ron enjoys, but what we both love doing together. That’s the gift of shared living—a life tailored just for us, filled with shared joys and personal growth.”

“(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.

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