Emmaus Direct Support Lead, Natasha, has recently given the phrase “Work That Matters” a whole new meaning at Emmaus. Natasha is always excited to teach valuable lessons to Brad and all of his housemates she supports. Her passion led to a fantastic idea that would teach Brad and his housemates how to love, share, and give to those who are less fortunate through an unforgettable experience.
With the help of her team, Natasha launched a plan to demonstrate the value of giving back. Two primary goals would drive Natasha’s project; to teach Brad and his housemates the importance of giving back to those less fortunate and to support people experiencing homelessness in the St. Louis community. They started by purchasing several essential items to put together in what Natasha would call a “Bless Bag.” (The items purchased would come through the generosity of Natasha and her team. The clients they support did not spend any of their own money to buy these items.)
The bags contained essential items such as hand sanitizer, socks, shoes, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, and various snacks included in a backpack that would also be given away. After Natasha and her team put the Bless Bags together, they would then hand them out to people in need across the St. Louis area. “I love to give to others, and I wanted Brad and the other clients I support to feel that joy,” Natasha explains.
“This project was a great way to show them how to help others through giving and sharing. It was also a great way to give back to our community and to show them how to be thankful for what we have.” On top of the Bless Bags, Natasha and her generous team also decided to visit McDonald’s on the way to drop the bags off. They purchased sandwiches and meals for more than thirty people to give out on their journey.
“Those who received our Bless Bags were very appreciative and thankful,” says Natasha, who has worked with Brad for years. She knew that this project would be unique to him. “Brad likes it when I take him out into the community. He makes a hand motion and says ‘drive,’ which means he wants to go. During the deliveries, we saw tears of joy and smiles of happiness from both our clients who gave out the bags and especially from those who received them.”
During her time at Emmaus, Natasha has brought countless valuable lessons into the men’s home. Getting to know Brad has been an absolute pleasure for Natasha because he has a cheerful nature. This contagious personality has made it easier for Natasha to wake up and do work that matters with a smile. “Brad is a loving individual. He is a joyful person who greets me with a smile and a hug every day. He is always happy and helpful in assisting me or anyone in need. For example, when he willingly helps me do home chores like cooking and cleaning, it shows me that he is appreciative for all that I do for him and his home.”
During the pandemic, Natasha and her passionate team came up with several creative home activities for Brad and his housemates to enjoy. Together, they would play games, do puzzles, have festive house parties, watch movies, do craft activities, and cook delicious meals. Along with each activity often came a lesson that would help Brad grow to become more independent.
Brad’s time with Natasha has taught him how to communicate his wants and needs through interactions. Natasha knows that she is making a difference in Brad’s life because he has grown a lot since starting to work with him. “In the past, I have helped Brad do daily chores such as putting his laundry in his hamper and washing his hands after using the restroom,” Natasha adds.
“It is amazing to see that he is now doing a lot of these things independently. He learns quickly, and it is showing through his willingness to do things without verbal prompts. For that, I am grateful.“ Natasha embodies the Emmaus mission because her support has taught Brad how to live independently, just like you.
Natasha hopes to continue these service projects with Brad and the rest of the home in some capacity every month. Why? Because giving back to one’s community is an enriching and life-changing experience. For Natasha, the value of teaching others what is right is just an added bonus on top of the work she does daily.
This is #WorkThatMatters.