INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY JAN OSBORN.
Jamie Reynolds is the State Director for Community Options, Inc. of Dallas. Community Options was established in 1997 to provide residential and employment support services to individuals with disabilities living in (16) counties in the Northern Texas Region to include Dallas, Collin, Denton and other surrounding counties. Community Options believes in the dignity of every person, and in the freedom of all people to experience the highest degree of self-determination. Embracing this philosophy, Community Options works with individuals with significant disabilities through residential services, day programs, social enterprises that employ individuals with disabilities, high school transition programs, and specialized programs for respite and medically fragile adults.
We had the opportunity to visit with Jamie recently while practicing social distancing as she checked in on one of the homes in the Dallas area. Seeing the joy and excitement on the residents faces when she arrived was very apparent. Jamie’s dedication to her clients and fellow workers inspired us at Dallas Doing Good.
Tell us about where you grew up and how giving back to the community was a part of your family experience.
Growing up I had a front row seat to my real-life heroes. Perhaps that’s what guided me to this industry and gives me my purpose. I grew up in a small Southeast Texas town along the Texas/Louisiana border where my dad was a fire fighter and my mom a nurse. I saw first-hand what it meant to be a servant leader throughout my entire life watching them share their skill set and knowledge to help in any capacity.
Tell us about Communities Options, Inc. and how your work impacts the community.
Community Options is a nonprofit provider of residential care and job placement for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Texas. We also operate in 10 other states and have been in existence for 31 years under the same CEO and founder, Robert Stack.
What does that really mean? We have homes throughout the community just like you and I where four individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live, have jobs, attend stimulating day programs, and thrive in our community every day!
What stories have most impacted you during your time working with marginalized communities?
I always say there is never a day that I am not greeted with a smile and have at least one person who is happy to see me, a lot of people don’t get that every day. There are certainly difficult days and situations but knowing that we are the only family and support system for some of our individuals brings the greatest amount of joy. We share in their successes and challenges of helping them to achieve their purpose each day.
If you could share one thing with our community during the COVID-19 crisis, what would it be?
I want to applaud a set of dedicated workers who embody the Golden Rule by helping those in need during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Folks like our dedicated workers at Community Options, who are among the thousands of direct support professionals that care for people with disabilities, disabilities that make them increasingly vulnerable if COVID-19 were to take hold.
Our direct support professionals are vital to the livelihood of persons with autism, developmental, intellectual and other disabilities. They are creatively engaging our individuals for hours each day to help distract them from the monotony and confusion sheltering in place causes them.
Our caring workers do not have the luxury of working from home, and often work for little more than minimum wage. They are truly the unsung heroes who are inspiring so many through their dedication and bravery in caring for our most vulnerable citizens.
So, a Texas-sized thank you to the great nurses, doctors, medical professionals, and first responders who are keeping us safe. But let us also add the direct care workers at nonprofits like Community Options who are committed to caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities during these times of fear and uncertainty.
I am forever grateful for the sacrifices they make each day by continuing to work in the toughest of times, in an industry that receives little recognition or support even before COVID-19 and they do it because they are selfless and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. They are my heroes yesterday, today, and every day!
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!