REM Iowa Journeys edition 1

Page 1

Journeys It all begins with you.

WE ARE FAMILY A A Destined Destined Match Match

Refer a Friend earn $ , 250 See pa ge 11 details for

Dear Readers, On behalf of REM Iowa I would like to extend a warm welcome to the 1st edition of our Journey’s magazine. The purpose of the Journey’s magazine is to inform readers about REM Iowa’s Host Home program. But prior to doing so I want to touch briefly on our history. REM Iowa has been providing supports and services since 1979. Through our quality and continuous innovation we have come a long way in the past 40 years as a human service provider. We hear, we listen and we identify ways in which we can meet the unique needs of individuals looking for supports in the communities of their choice. One venue in which this is accomplished is through a program we call Host Home. REM Iowa’s Host Home program supports people living in private, family homes – known as Host Homes – where they can participate in the everyday activities of family and community life. Individuals in our Host Home program live with nurturing caregivers who we call “Mentors”. We use the term Mentor because the people opening their homes become so much more than just care providers; they are advocates, friends, teachers and family. With the support from REM Iowa’s professionals, Mentors help people of all abilities work toward their personal goals, including developing independence, building social skills, and participating in community life. Successful matches between Mentors and the individuals they support are created, and this provides the foundation for lasting and enriching relationships. The Host Home model leads to successful outcomes and powerful relationships that change the lives of those we support, as well as the lives of the Mentors. For more information visit or What excites me the most about Host Home is that it provides another service option to people. As the saying goes, one size does not fit all. Individuals that desire this type of support setting have the opportunity to be a part of a family home and receive continuity of care through the Mentor. I am honored to be a part of REM Iowa and our Host Home program, as well as to be part of an organization that has and continues to make a difference in the lives of countless individuals, families, and other stakeholders. We enhance lives and relationships, day-after-day and year-after-year. I hope you enjoy our first edition of our Journeys magazine as we highlight the positive impact of the Host Home program – for those receiving the service, as well as those providing the service. The relationships and the continuity are key, and I hope the fulfillment of being a Mentor comes alive through the stories we are about to share.


Lisa Pakkebier Executive Director, REM Iowa

“We hear, we listen and we identify ways in which we can meet the unique needs of individuals looking for supports in the communities of their choice”

what's inside... SOAR


Mason never thought things like travel and college were possible until he met Suzanne and moved in with the Revers’. His life changed for the better and with Suzanne’s guidance, he began to SOAR.



Patty often worried about what would happen to Mollie if something serious were to happen to herself. Once Mollie moved in with the Amaro’s, Patty knew that Mollie would always have a place to call home.

Mentors Make All the Difference A home is more than a house—it’s where we develop lasting relationships and share our lives with the people we call family. In our Host Home program, individuals with disabilities live with their Host Home providers, who we call Mentors. As a Mentor, you’ll help an individual with disabilities thrive as an active part of the community while earning extra money to help make ends meet. You’ll also receive tools, education and constant support from our expert team. Best of all, you’ll be making a difference and creating bonds of friendship and family that can last a lifetime.

Our Matching Process WE ARE FAMILY


When Dan and Michelle opened their home and hearts to the world of Host Home, they welcomed not only two individuals, but grew their family and gained so much more.

The matching process is designed to ensure that you and the person who comes to live with you are comfortable so that you can live together as family would and develop a meaningful relationship. Ultimately, you will have the final say over who you choose to welcome into your home.



In everything Angie does she strives to help others. Her passion of giving back and her “believe and achieve” motto has guided Billy and Andrea to do and try new things.

Mission and Philosophy The mission of REM Iowa is to offer adults innovative, quality services and supports that lead to growth and independence, regardless of the physical, intellectual or behavioral challenges they face. Our philosophy emphasizes partnerships—with those we serve, their families, our employees, Mentors, payors and the communities in which we work—in an effort to help people shape the direction of their own lives in community-based settings.

he never thought he would achieve those dreams. His life changed once he saw Suzanne’s home and that image of his potential bedroom. For Suzanne that extra bedroom provided thoughts on how she could make a difference, extend her family, For Mason, all it took was an image of a bedroom to spark a million thoughts about a space of his own, a place to call home and an opportunity to soar. For most of his life, Mason moved from group home to group home from Cedar Rapids, to Coralville, to Iowa City and back to Coralville. Each one was “hectic” in its own way as Mason navigated roommates, changing staff and moving homes. “Don’t get me wrong,” Mason said, “group homes are right for some, but for me, I just put up with it. I always dreamed of being in a family setting, traveling, and having a job.” Until Mason was matched with Suzanne Revers and received that one to one Mentor care,

Since being connected through the Host Home program, Mason has experienced many firsts. Within the first week, he and Suzanne visited the Eastern Iowa Airport where Mason could see airplanes up close and they could talk about adventures. Mason’s interest for travel was enhanced by his

“I always dreamed of being in a family setting, traveling, and having a job.” and provide a possible peer for her own son. Suzanne’s active family of boys and her willingness to get out, travel and do something meaningful, was a perfect match for Mason who had those same dreams. In 2012, after completing the matching process where they took the time to get to know each other and feel comfortable, Mason was matched with Suzanne.

first trip to Disneyworld with Suzanne, and then later trips to St. Louis where he visited the Arch and Six Flags, and to South Dakota to visit the Corn Palace. Through Camp Courageous, Mason has also traveled to Hershey, PA to tour the Hershey Factory where he got to make his very own chocolate bar! His continual love of travel and getting out also got Mason interested in planning a trip to Branson, MO with his housemate, Shawn.

Living in a Host Home has also opened the doors to help Mason learn about another passion of his, which is Computer Science. Through Suzanne, Mason connected with Compuplace and Reach, where they work with individuals with disabilities on learning how to be more tech savvy. During his time there Mason learned about the world of web design, and the endless opportunities that it could offer. Mason’s interest in computers, something completely new to him, was turning into more than just a hobby. That passion grew into a dream and in the Fall of 2015 Mason enrolled in Kirkwood Community College. When Mason first started classes he was nervous and unsure of how he would navigate the new relationships with classmates and the large campus. Mason sought out Suzanne’s guidance on going back and forth to class, and learning how to communicate with other college students and professors. Now Mason independently walks to classes, has meetings with his counselors, and has made new friends. “Starting and completing college in the past was never something I thought I could do,” said Mason. “It just didn’t seem possible for me.” But with the continued support of Suzanne, Mason gained confidence in himself and worked little by little to complete his courses. In the spring of 2019, Mason did the unimaginable… graduated from Kirkwood with a degree in IT. In the future, Mason plans to go on to obtain his Network Security Degree and would like to get into Cyber Security. Mason’s advice for any individual in an environment that is not working for them is… “Make the best of it wherever you are, but know there are other options available to you. Talk to your Case Worker if you feel you need out and look at Host Home. If you have the chance to go to Host Home program, do it! It might be your opportunity to spread your wings and soar.”

What is a Mentor? A Mentor is a person who makes a difference in the life of an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities by opening their heart and their home; providing the individual they care for with the support they need to thrive. With the help of our specialized team of health and human services professionals, Mentors become trusted caregivers, friends and advocates for the individuals they care for. This special relationship between the Mentor and the individual they support is the foundation of our program’s success. Our Mentors are our greatest resource; they enable us to help individuals across the country live rich, meaningful lives in the communities they call home, regardless of the challenges they may face.

Michelle, who went on to become a Mentor, and was looking for a person to add to her family when Mollie was in need of a new home. “It was somewhat of an act of God to have Michelle pass through the sale that day”, said Patty. “Little did we know that Mollie would someday be matched with Michelle.”

A Mother’s Perspective As any mother of a child with disabilities will tell you, many thoughts roll through their mind throughout their child’s life and at various stages as they grow and develop. During the course of their child’s life a mother’s emotions range from sheer happiness to times of complete fear and concern for their well-being. For Patty, the mother of two daughters, you’re always thinking and hoping for the best wanting things to be perfect for your children no matter what their abilities are or aren’t. As Mollie, her youngest daughter, grew up Patty noticed she was not developing on the same timeframe as her sister did and needed some extra help. When caring for a child with disabilities the motherhood role often blurs with that of caregiver, and concerns about all the “what ifs” never fade. As Mollie grew up living at home she watched her sister move out and start a new life with her husband and kids. Mollie dreamed of also leaving the family nest and starting on her own. However Mollie needed help to accomplish her life goals. At age 24 Mollie moved into a group home with 3 other ladies. This provided Mollie the sense of moving out, but really just moving into a different set of circumstances with rules and restrictions that didn’t provide her with enough of a sense of freedom. After several placements that just didn’t seem like a good fit, Mollie and her parents found out about the Host Home model. They were interested due to the one on one attention Mollie would receive from the Mentors. The family-like atmosphere of living with Mentors in their home, over rotating staff and peers, would also provide Mollie with someone focused on her needs and wants, and give her more consistent care. Mollie was initially matched with a couple that was not quite everything Mollie and Patty had hoped for, but they still believed in the model and were willing to give it another chance. Little did they know that Mollie had already met her future Mentor, Michelle Amaro, at garage sale years before. From that chance meeting Mollie met

The match with the Amaro’s from the beginning, just felt right for both Mollie and Patty. Patty recalls how Michelle made sure the she was included in Mollie’s home visits and personally invited her to join them for dinner. Michelle also made sure that she had regular phone calls with Patty to alleviate any concerns Patty had. All along, Michelle worked to include Mollie’s parents in household events. As an “extended family” they have all celebrated birthdays and dinners together, and have even been included in “band parties” at the Amaro’s barn. “We have just always felt so accepted and comfortable with Mollie’s arrangements, it really brings us much peace and comfort,” said Patty. Michelle and Patty’s open communication and similar values have helped to bring about this strong connection not only between the two moms, but also with the entire extended family. “We are forever thankful for Michelle and Dan and know that if there is ever a time when we are unable to be there for Mollie, the Amaro’s will always be by her side”.

Over the past 4 years with Michelle and Dan, Mollie has gained independence and is able to think and react more for herself As for Mollie her peace, comfort, and confidence have begun to flourish. Over the past 4 years with Michelle and Dan, Mollie has gained independence and is able to think and react more for herself. She has been able to devote time to her job, compete in Special Olympics, go camping with the Amaro’s, spend time at her parents, and has started dating. With the one on one attention Mollie receives with the Amaro’s, Patty feels relieved and is able to be involved with

Mollie as a mother rather than a caregiver. Patty also takes comfort in knowing that Michelle is there for Mollie if she needs support and doesn’t want to talk to “mom”. This peace of mind for Patty, the caring heart and love of Michelle, and the ability for Mollie to flourish is what the Host Home Program is all about. “We couldn’t be happier with the Amaro home and REM Iowa for giving us our daughter back. We take comfort in knowing that if something were to happen to us, Mollie would have a place to call home and the love and support needed to carry on!”

We Are With You Every Step of the Way Coordinators

Community Partners

Network of Support

Program Leadership

Peer Support

Opening your heart and home to an adult with disabilities is no small thing; we understand. That’s why our experienced team provides comprehensive 24/7 support to our Mentor families. Our support for Mentors includes case management, 24-hour emergency on-call services, medication management and much more. We’re here for you. Our highly trained team of coordinators, supervisors and more will be with you every step of the way. We also connect you with other Mentors and host support groups so that you can share experiences and learn from your peers.

“REM Iowa works at great lengths to find your likes, dislikes, values, hobbies, lifestyle, etc. and to match them with an individual�

Long before Mollie was matched with Michelle and Dan Amaro, their paths crossed in a most unbelievable way. Their destiny to one day be matched together was already in play.

individual they met at the garage sale, was looking for a new home and accepted the Amaro’s invitation to meet. Right away Mollie just seemed to fit into the family.

For Dan and Michelle, opening their heart and home to others in need had always been a way of life. For ten years they fostered teens, specializing in troubled youth. As their own biological children grew, they began to explore other ways they could continue give to others, but just were not sure what direction their next steps would take them.

“REM Iowa works at great lengths to find your likes, dislikes, values, hobbies and lifestyle, and match them with an individual,” said Michelle. “They did find the perfect match for us without a doubt!”

It was at a garage sale that sparked new thoughts, potential direction, and awareness of a program that would give them the opportunity to continue to teach and advocate for others. This garage sale was being hosted by one of REM Iowa’s Host Home Mentor families. This random meeting was where Michelle learned about the Host Home program and how they were able to help an individual with a disability in his own home and provide them support to achieve their dreams. It was also at this garage sale that Michelle actually met or rather crossed paths with Mollie, an individual matched and currently living in that home. This interaction lead to Dan and Michelle looking into the Host Home Program themselves. For the Amaro’s the matching process was longer than others as they had active lifestyles and four young boys that constantly kept them on the move. Their dream was to find an individual who liked activities, enjoyed getting out, traveling, camping, and was also willing to live in the country side. “I can only imagine the look on the other individual’s face when they learned we had four boys ranging from ages 4-16 years old,” said Michelle. The Amaro’s waited a full year before, as fate would have it Mollie, the

From the beginning of the matching process, the Amaro’s knew they not only wanted to welcome Mollie in their family but also wanted to get to know Mollie’s parents, and make sure they were involved. Michelle made sure to be in constant communication with Mollie’s mom, Patty to make sure she knew her daughter was adjusting well to her new home. This was the beginning of extended friendships and strong bonds that would make Mollie’s two “families” work seamlessly. It is this family atmosphere that makes the Host Home program so unique and special, and has helped Mollie thrive with the Amaro’s.

After living for two years with Dan and Michelle, Mollie missed having a peer as roommate. She approached the Amaro’s about her friend Stephanie joining the family. Michelle and Dan thought about it and talked it over with the rest of the family and decided they still had room in their house and a special place in their hearts to add one more individual into their home. In 2018 Stephanie joined the family. “Having two individuals in our home has taught us great patience, kindness, love and expanded our understanding of their disabilities. The ladies have brought so much joy into our home,” said Michelle. “I can’t even imagine what our life would be without them. They have become family.” As expected, life for the Amaro’s is pretty busy, with both Mollie and Stephanie working and their various activities. Although running a full household, with two individuals keeps Michelle busy it still allows her to have more time to volunteer and be active in her own boys’ lives. The only thing that has been difficult for Michelle is coordinating vacations around everyone’s work schedules, school events, and everyone’s activities. Michelle said, “Every day is different and that is about the only constant we can count on, but one thing is for sure, we all come home to our own ‘big family’.”

BELIEVE Prior to working with Angela ‘Angie’ Shultz as a Mentor there is one thing that is apparent, that no matter where she is at in her journey through her career she has felt the calling to help others. She started out working with at risk children in the community. From there she became a part of the Mental Health & Developmental Disability Services (MHDD) for 14 years as a counselor, where she helped coach people on working with their mental illness. Not only has Angie made a difference in the lives of the people professionally but she also is an active member of her community. Angie is a board member for the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association which discusses neighborhood improvement. The Association works on developing projects such as planting community gardens and raising money to supply people with bus passes. She is also a member of the Cedar Rapids Police Chief Advisory Committee that covers important topics that affect the city. While on that committee Angie developed a system to help emergency personnel pull up a profile that explains how to best support an individual in their time of need. But rather than just stop there, Angie wanted to put her years of training to use to help someone on a deeper, more personal level. When Angie heard about the Mentor Host Home program in a presentation she knew immediately it was for her. On October 1st, 2013 Angie contracted with REM Iowa to become a Mentor. Angie said the first time she met Billy they “clicked and could be open with each other”. Since living with Angie,

Billy has made tremendous strides on increasing his independence. When joining Host Home Billy was very insecure about his speech impediment and would shut down if he felt people did not understand him. Angie helped Billy gain confidence in his ability to talk to strangers and not get frustrated with himself if others had difficulty understanding him. Billy expressed wanting a job in the community. Angie encouraged him to find a Job Coach and go after jobs he normally would not consider. Billy soon found an opportunity at the local movie theatre. He was nervous about the interview, but Angie was right there telling him she believed he could do it. A week later you could hear the pride in his voice when he called to say he got the job! Completing these goals seemed to spark a fire in Billy and made him believe he could achieve greater independence. Billy expressed a strong desire to become his own guardian. With the support of Angie and his family Billy represented himself in front of the judge and was granted his own guardianship. Most recently Billy wanted get his license. He worked with his Mentor to identify concrete steps in order to get his permit. He studied and practiced taking the written test with Angie. Angie waited anxiously as Billy went Department of Transportation and took his test. He passed and received his permit, making him one step closer to receiving his license. On more than one occasion Angie had expressed interest in supporting a second individual, and in 2015 Angie and Billy met Andrea. Her previous placement had ended and

Andrea needed a temporary home until she could find her new Mentor. Angie opened up her home to Andrea and it became apparent immediately that all three were a perfect match. When Andrea first came to Angie she was dealing with high anxiety which hindered her independence, and preventing her from taking the city bus and building trusting relationships. With encouragement from Angie, Andrea has gained confidence to build new friendships, independently ride the bus, and the ability to express her dissatisfaction for her job. With the help of Angie she took the proper steps to end that employment and find a new job. Andrea now works for Think Safe, a medical supplier company. She will happily tell you about all the products they produce, and how much she enjoys working there. During the time when Andrea did not have a job, money was tight. Angie helped show Andrea how to calculate her groceries while shopping to stay on budget. Now when they go the store you will see Andrea with a calculator in her hand, adding up her purchases. Every time on home visits Andrea mentions how happy she is, and that they are all like a big, weird family. While Andrea is proud of all she has accomplished with Angie I think her favorite thing about Angie is all the time she takes to help Andrea with her passion. Andrea loves Anime. She could talk for hours about all the different characters, and their back stories. She loves making movies and going to conferences to meet up with other people that share her passion. Angie spends hours helping Andrea design and make very elaborate costumes for conventions. Because of Andrea’s budget they have to be creative and use regular items and turn them into something only they can see at the time. The end result is always something spectacular. When talking with Angie about being a Mentor the common theme is instilling confidence. At times we protect our individual too much and do not allow them to fail. We do it because we care about them and don’t want to see something bad happen to them. But how many times have we all failed? You pick yourself up and try again, and learn from the experience. It is not just the your accomplishments that make a person successful, instead the greatest achievement in life is going after what you want. That no matter what you will be there to support and care about them. They already possessed the ability to accomplish their dreams, I just helped them gain the confidence to believe for themselves.

Who Can Become a Mentor? Our Mentors represent a wide range of backgrounds and skill levels. They may be stay-at-home moms, empty nesters looking for companionship and a way to give back, retirees, or healthcare and social services professionals. Mentors may be married or single, men or women and represent a wide range of ethnicities and religions. One constant among our Mentors, however, is their commitment to care for and make a positive difference in someone’s life.

How Can I Become a Mentor? If being a Mentor sounds like it might be right for you or someone you know, visit our website at and apply today. We look forward to hearing from you!

Refer a Friend , Earn $250

Refer And Earn Program

Tell someone how they can make a difference and receive a generous monthly payment as a Mentor. If the person you refer becomes a certified Mentor, you receive $250! To learn more about this amazing opportunity, visit us at

1220 Industrial Ave. Hiawatha, IA 52233 Tel: (319) 294-0264


Contact a Recruiter to set up a time and date.

Invite family, friends and neighbors who you think may be interested in becoming a Mentor.

Receive an additional $250 for EACH new Mentor that becomes certified after attending your event!

Enjoy a cup of coffee on us while you have fun and let guests hear from one of our Recruiters as they share about our Host Home program.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.