The Incredible Shrinking Man

donald and joyce

By Pat Cumiskey, FACES Case Manager in Augusta

Lutheran Services of Georgia’s FACES program works to give individuals with developmental disabilities the support and tools they need to thrive in their communities. FACES client Donald’s journey is a success story, demonstrating what can happen when one person decides to try to positively influence another person’s life.

Donald was experiencing difficulties living at home and needed structure and guidance, so Adult Protective Services referred him to LSG. When Donald came to live with Support Companion Joyce Lassiter in Hephzibah in August of 2013, he lacked some of the basic skills necessary for him to thrive. His hygiene and self-care skills were very poor and he had minimal social skills. In addition, Donald was significantly overweight, due to unhealthy and uncontrolled eating habits.

After her first meeting with Donald, Mrs. Lassiter realized that he needed more structure to his life and welcomed the challenge. One of the first things she decided to do was to discuss Donald’s capacity for exercise and caloric intake with his primary care provider. She also encouraged Donald to begin a walking program at home and even accompanied him for his walks. Through Mrs. Lassiter’s encouragement to make better eating decisions and limit his portions, Donald has learned to make healthy food choices both at home and when dining out. He began to lose weight and, when people noticed, he became happier about himself.

In June, Donald went to the doctor for a regular visit and weighed in at 100 pounds less than a year ago, an incredible accomplishment, and has gone from a 60-inch waist to a size of 48 inches. Donald looks better, feels better, and it shows in so many ways. He is more sociable and becoming the healthy, happy young man we all hoped he could be.

LSG congratulates Donald for his accomplishments and thanks Joyce for truly making a difference through her care.

Love at the Hatcher Home


Every day, in host homes all across Georgia, Lutheran Services of Georgia’s support companions provide excellent care, love, and belonging for  clients in our FACES program. FACES gives individuals with developmental disabilities the tools and support they need to thrive within their communities. In one Columbus household, Ms. Sarah Hatcher opened her home to two FACES clients who are now considered members of the community and her family.

In January 2013, Ms. Hatcher officially became a Host Home Provider with LSG. Soon after, Nancy B. was awarded her Medicaid waiver to receive services. Before living with Ms. Hatcher, Nancy stayed in a nursing home where staff treated her as if she was fully dependent on their care. As Nancy became part of the Hatcher home, she grew more and more independent. She no longer needs assistance with walking, dressing herself, or other daily living activities. Nancy enjoys her new life with Ms. Hatcher and can converse, write her name, and even read some. During the week, she takes a van on her own to Easter Seals, a day services program which helps individuals with disabilities connect with their communities.

Eventually, in June of 2013, Ms. Hatcher and Nancy agreed to open their home to Carol, another FACES client. Ms. Hatcher quickly observed that Carol had some medical concerns and took her to the doctor. There, Carol was diagnosed with a serious illness. Her doctor required a decision-maker to make medical decisions on Carol’s behalf. Ms. Hatcher was unable to serve as decision-maker, since doing so would be considered a conflict of interest. Fortunately, Ms. Hatcher had done an excellent job integrating both Nancy and Carol into the community and a church member stepped up to assist.

Ms. Hatcher supported Carol through her illness. Because of the ongoing care that Carol required upon leaving the hospital, it was uncertain if she would be able to return to Ms. Hatcher’s home. Determined to continue to provide a home environment for Carol, Ms. Hatcher underwent the training necessary for Carol to move back in. Today, Carol is healthy and lives a happy life with Nancy and Ms. Hatcher, her new family. She recently enjoyed a great 4th of July celebration and is constantly smiling. Ms. Hatcher continues to treat Nancy and Carol like family members, inviting them to family holidays, vacations, and more. The Hatcher home is truly a place of care, community, and love for all three women.

Augusta FACES The Winter Storms

This winter, the weather outside grew frightful as storms swept through Georgia, affecting LSG clients across the state. As the weather worsened, LSG’s Augusta staff worked quickly to ensure that all FACES clients were protected from the storm.  LSG’s Facilitating Advocacy, Care, Education, and Shelter (FACES) program serves individuals with developmental disabilities, creating supportive and meaningful living environments that allow them to thrive.

LSG staff and Support Companions astutely faced the dangerous weather.  LSG staff contacted all Support Companions for an update on their locations and statuses. Together, they also responded a potentially difficult situation with a FACES client.

A female FACES client lost power and staff were temporarily unable to contact her. Vanessa Pooser, a FACES Case Manager, and Pat Cumiskey, the Lead Case Manager and Recruiter, emailed the client’s daughter. The daughter called them to tell them that her mother was at home. Vanessa and Pat contacted a local deputy who sent a car out to check on the client and her host home provider. The deputy helped relocate them to the provider’s brother’s house until they were finally able to return home.

Impressed and grateful, Vanessa said, “Through ongoing back-and-forth communications, I am extremely proud to say that our team was proactive in resolving issues that could have escalated into additional crises.” Thanks to quick thinking and action by LSG staff and Support Companions, all FACES clients stayed warm, safe, and sound during the winter storms.


Angelica at the Prom!

When Angelica and Heather met at Lutheran Services of Georgia’s office in Atlanta on a Saturday in late April, they became fast friends. They were both participants in LSG’s FACES program, which helps individuals with developmental, intellectual, or physical disabilities thrive in their communities. They were both in high school. And, most important, they both loved to dance. During the couple of hours that they stayed at LSG’s office, they rocked out to ’70s music, showing off their dance moves. So it was no wonder when Heather began to talk about her plans to go dancing at the prom a week later. Angelica said that she had never been to prom before, and that gave Heather an idea: why don’t they both go to the dance?

Angelica said that she would love to go to the prom, but that left Mary, the Support Companion who cares for Angelica, in a bind: Angelica had no dress, no shoes, no makeup, and the dance was one week away. Everything worked out in the end, however. Mary gave her a dress to wear, and Angelica found some shoes to go with it. By the time that the night of the prom rolled around, Angelica was more than ready to be there.

That night, Heather and Angelica danced their socks off. According to Angelica, the prom was a blast. After taking pictures and eating dinner, they took off their high heels and put on their dancing shoes. “We danced from 6 o’clock to 10 o’clock nonstop,” she recalled. It was a moment of joy for the two young ladies who loved to dance but who had never been to the prom before. Safe to say, they will probably be going back next year.

Nancy's New Family

Before Lutheran Services of Georgia got in touch with Nancy, she had been living in a nursing home for a long time. Her family did not visit her or care for her, leaving her alone inside the institution. The nursing home staff, moreover, did not have the capacity to help Nancy improve her condition. Nancy got around with a walker, and no one helped her try to walk on her own. Although she continued to get by each day, she was far from thriving in this environment.

After LSG case workers finally learned about her situation, they placed her with a committed support companion, Sarah, who felt that she was called to provide support to those in need of it. During the time that Nancy has been in Sarah’s home, she has learned important daily living skills: to walk independently of a walker, do her own laundry, and read a little bit on her own. She also takes a bus by herself to a day program, where she learns community integration skills, and then finds her own way home again. Whereas the nursing home staff assumed that Nancy could not even walk by herself, Sarah has discovered that with the right support and attention Nancy can indeed become more independent.

But most important, Nancy is part of a family now. Sarah has welcomed her graciously, caring for her as a mother would. Along with Nancy, Sarah also provides support to Britnee, which means that Nancy has more than one person in her new family. Having lived most of her life without anyone to love her, Nancy is now living with two people that she can call family.

Here Comes Santa Claus! Foster Care and FACES Holiday Party

Amid the sweet smells of honey buttered rolls and roasted chicken, the children, participants and families crowded in for a celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season. After greetings were passed, and everyone was all full and fed (the excessive amount of bread pudding was to blame) Old Saint Nick came frolicking in sporting that ever-so-famous white beard and bright-red attire. The children and FACES participants, after tugging on his beard to confirm its “realness,” eagerly awaited their chance to tell him their holiday wishes. After many hugs, jolly laughs, and adorable photographs, everyone settled down for the next activity—the gift raffle. From Museum vouchers to Six Flags tickets, and all the prizes in between, everyone went home a winner! Thanks to our enthusiastic winners, laughter filled the room as those energetic parents entertained the entire party with celebratory dancing! The rest of the night went about in the same lively manner. All in all, due to a great turnout, bountiful amounts of delicious food, and many laughs, the night was a huge success! Thank you to all the volunteers, donors, and families in attendance for another wonderful Christmas Party!

A special thanks to the following organizations/people for their contributions and donations: 1. Six Flags Over Georgia 2. Imagine It! Children’s Museum 3. Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff 4. Center for Puppetry Arts 5. Zoo Atlanta 6. Golden Corral (Jonesboro) 7. Joe Menchoffer (Santa) 8. Women of the ELCA Magi Cluster and friends 9. Sisters of the Good Shepherd Circle of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

Chad Steinborn is the marketing coordinator for Lutheran Services of Georgia

Stories from FACES: Michael and Joey thrive in new homes

Through its FACES (Facilitating, Advocacy, Care, Education, and Shelter) program, LSG provides care to adults with developmental disabilities. For the FACES staff, providing care means much more than making sure that each individual has a bed to sleep on; it means finding a home for every person. Through the generous contributions of time and energy by the staff who discover places for clients to live and by the in-home companions who support the clients, FACES often succeeds in giving clients the experience of being at a home. This success was summed up recently in a comment made by the sister of a client when the two of them visited a house that he would be staying in. Walking down the front steps of the house after the visit, the sister said, “This is not just a place; this is a home.” When given the comfort, support, and care that a home offers, individuals with developmental disabilities can thrive. Here are stories of two clients who have become more independent and self-reliant in their environments.

In February, 2012, Michael moved to a different host home and quickly acclimated to his new surroundings. Since then, he has demonstrated his independence by beginning to work at Dollar Tree and by using his own cell phone. Michael is thoroughly enjoying these and other opportunities that his new host home is giving him.

After being placed unsuccessfully into several homes, Joey moved to a new host home in October, 2011. In this most recent home, Joey has found the stability and support that allow him to express his feelings positively. He has shown great improvement in the past few years, making healthy choices, learning to communicate constructively, and immersing himself in the activities of his community. Joey now attends a day program, has a steady girlfriend, and recently went to the People First Conference on Jekyll Island.

FACES: Reflections on the LSG Difference

FACES State Program Director Ryan Whitmire examines the motivations for his work and why Lutheran Services of Georgia stands out from the crowd Since the Facilitating, Advocacy, Care, Education, & Shelter (FACES) program for placing adults with developmental disabilities in loving homes first started, it has been our mission to create meaningful family relationships for the people we serve.  This philosophy is what sets LSG apart from many organizations that provide supports to people with developmental disabilities.

When I first started working for LSG in December 2006, it was clear that LSG was different.  Our meetings were focused on the individuals we serve and the matching process to find the perfect family fit family for referrals.  It was a pleasant transition from looking at potential placements based on an open bed and projected growth goals.

Over the last 10 years, FACES has successfully created real families and homes for the individuals we serve.  Our Host Home providers (caregivers) are special people.  They truly care about the individual and strive to assist the people we serve to reach their personal goals and desires.

Due to Medicaid funding issues, there are thousands of people in need of services, but have no funding.  One way you can help is to get involved with the “unlock the waiting lists” campaign.  With your help, people in need will get the funding and supports they need to start being apart of a new family.

Ryan Whitmire State Program Manager of FACES