Community Impact
7:13 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Catholic Charities Ensures Adults With Developmental Disabilities Are Not Forgotten

Catholic Charities advocates for people in need, no matter who they are.

Inside the New Directions Adult Day Health Care Center, groups of people gather around tables at. It’s Bingo time. And Willie is working two boards.

“I’m helping her,” Willie explains.

“Do you always help your neighbors play bingo?” I ask.

“Yes ma’am.”

“How come?”

“Because they don’t know,” answers Willie. “Because they don’t know,” he repeats. “They don’t know, Sweetie.”

Willie is intellectually and developmentally delayed, but compared to his neighbors at the bingo table — many of whom have a very hard time speaking and are in wheelchairs with little mobility — Willie is in great shape. Plus, he’s really charming.

“You look good today, baby,” he tells me.

“I got BINGO,” declares Willie. “Bingo!”

When Willie gets bingo everyone in the room cheers. “All right Willie! Willie.”

Willie at home at Padua House.
Willie at home at Padua House.
Credit Catholic Charities

“You’re seeing adults around here, but they have that beautiful, child-like mentality,” says Anna Toujas, the Associate Director of Communication for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Toujas says these adults — with mental, physical and developmental disabilities — are an extremely vulnerable population. Catholic Charities makes sure they’re not a forgotten population.

Toujas says Catholic Charities provides these adults with stability and a sense of family. “It’s taking care of a child: attending to their needs, making sure they’re eating right, making sure they have activities, making sure they’re safe, and making sure they’re cared for and loved.”

Most of these adults live in small group homes or at a larger facility called Padua House, and they attend New Directions Adult Day Health Care Center for socialization. All day long they interact with each other and their care givers. Working in small groups, they learn the day of the week, the address of the center, and how to spell their name.

“They develop a bond, like they call them ‘mom,' says Trinette Cambrice, the lead service coordinator of New Directions.

“Everybody does exercise, even our wheelchair clients. Not like us, but they have a form of exercise, so that’s a part of our daily program.”

“What would that look like?” I ask.

“Moving their arms, or mouth,” she answers. “Or head.”

Cambrice points to a woman bending her elbow.

“See what she’s doing right there? She’s moving. That’s exercise. That’s exercise.”

More physically mobile adults, like Willie, help with cleaning. Willie especially loves working outside.

“I love New Directions,” he tells me. “They treat you real good. We go on field trips, have parties and everything. I like it here.”

Catholic Charities says they recognize all people as individuals, who first and foremost deserve dignity and respect. They say their job is is to advocate for those in need — and not just those with disabilities, like the folks at New Directions, but all sorts of people, with all sorts of challenges. They work with immigrants, refugees, the homeless, children and adults, folks with mental health issues, and victims of domestic violence and abuse. They help people navigate the legal system, the healthcare system, immigration and much more.

Sister Majorie Hebert, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New Orleans says they serve people of all religions and nationalities.

“Catholic Charities Serves all people,” says Sister Hebert. “We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic. We’re Catholic, therefore we serve people.”

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