Over many decades at Pine Tree Society, Dan, David, Jon and Diana have made friends who are like family. From working together, sharing good times, supporting each other through challenges and even retiring together, it’s been a lifelong journey.
Diana has been participating in Pine Tree Society’s Community Support program in Scarborough for longer than she can remember. Dan, David and Jon have been with the Auburn program for more than 40 years.
In fact, Dan has been with the program for 46 years, making him the longest-standing participant.
“He was 18 years old when he started. He loves going and he wouldn’t miss it for the world,” his brother Mike said. “It’s a good fit because they bring him to all the things he loves to do: bowling, swimming, walking, going out for lunch and helping out the rangers at the Maine Wildlife Park. It makes him so happy.”
David has been with the program nearly as long as Dan. David’s sister Suzanne appreciates how Pine Tree Society enhances his life by connecting him with friends and the greater community, including the expansive experiences of taking part in Special Olympics and Central Maine Adaptive Sports.
“Pine Tree Society is such a good fit for David because the staff there know him so well,” Suzanne said. “They go above and beyond to get to know each person to meet their specific needs as an individual.”
As a caregiver, she values the opportunity to connect with the community on a daily basis while practicing things like positive communication and social skills which, in turn, increase his sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
“Knowing that David spends time each day doing something meaningful, developing more independence and truly enjoying himself while doing it makes a world of difference to me,” she said.
Another long-time participant, Jon, lives in a rural community and has been coming since he graduated from high school. Now 61 years old, he continues to experience new things and reach his personal goals alongside lifelong friends.
His mother, Janice, appreciates how many opportunities he has to do things outside their rural town and how he gets to spend time with people other than family.
“It makes me feel good that he is having exposure that I would not be able to give him,” she said.
At Pine Tree Society’s Scarborough Community Support program, Diana enjoys the friendship and connection with her peers as well.
“She learns so many things from the program,” said her aunt, Marie. “From counting change, to developing social skills, to learning how to advocate for herself and building self-confidence by trying new things.”
Marie appreciates that Diana has the chance to take responsibility and make her own choices.
“She knows the staff really cares about her well-being,” she continued. “They are great with communication and are always polite, helpful and insightful. Diana and I always feel respected.”
For Shelley Zielinski, director of Adult Support Services at Pine Tree Society, it all starts with creating relationships and developing trust.
“Our clients and their families and guardians trust in us,” she said. “We have a lot of staff longevity and many of the people who attend our program have been with the same staff for as long as 15 to 30 years. They trust in our ability to support them to reach their goals as they navigate different phases of their lives.”
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