Category: residents

Dee’s Birthday Party 2018

Dee’s Birthday Party 2018

On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, I had the pleasure of watching Five Star Aides celebrate Dee’s birthday.  That is “Five Star Home Health,” but they were easily 5-Star Aides in my eyes.

I told the Aides last week that we would have a small party today for Dee, but I haven’t mentioned it since.  Three of them came out of the kitchen carrying the birthday cake that Dee’s Mom brought to Merica House for her.  One set her cell phone to some music & they began singing a jazzy Happy Birthday, clapping & swaying.  Dee had the biggest grin on her face as she was surrounded by the Aides. When I realized I had not taken any pictures, I ran to my phone (camera) & they assembled quickly to start another happy rendition of Happy Birthday!

Cake was cut & served while Dee opened a couple of gifts.  One of the Aides disappeared and suddenly returned with one of the maintenance men who is always very kind to Dee and thus has a special place in her heart.  He stood smiling at Dee while the Aides went into another singing of Happy Birthday.  Jose the maintenance man even joined in.  He wished Dee a Happy Birthday & Dee looked like she was about to explode with happiness.

We have spent a lot of time being frustrated with Aides in the past but this group – Loretta, Patience, Zewdwa, Awo, & Victoria, have been a joy to work – and sing with.

Names:  Lady in green-Loretta, Burgundy outfit-Victoria, Royal blue-Patience, Lady in black top-Awo, Lady in background in royal blue top-Zewdwa, Lady in gray top-Aida, Gentleman-Jose

Cathy Gets New Furniture

Cathy Gets New Furniture

It all started when I began shopping for antiques on Facebook’s section called Marketplace. I don’t normally “do” Facebook but, much to my husband’s disappointment, I “do” online shopping as a hobby. And Marketplace is a treasure trove.

Well, one day Cathy saw me shopping during my lunch hour. I was looking at hutches & she said she wished she had a desk hutch in her room but, she said, what she really wanted was a bedroom set where all the pieces matched. Well, that was a challenge to a shopper like myself.

After looking for a week or 2, I came across a beautiful matching set of white furniture. I messaged the seller to find out if it was available. It was. I asked Cathy if she could go halves on the cost with her Mom & she thought she could, so she asked her Mom. Mom, generously agreed to pay 3/4 ths of the cost.

I contacted the seller again & she gave me her husband’s number. I put it in Mike’s hands to arrange where & when. They decided on the 4th weekend in February. We would have to pick it up in Walkersville, Maryland, close to Baltimore. We made it a family outing, packing up our 2 dogs in the backseat of the truck. The drive wasn’t too bad. We stopped at Merica House first to drop off a “new” office desk chair for me. Mine had dropped to the lowest setting the Friday before & wouldn’t raise back up. The “new” chair was my first actual Facebook Marketplace purchase.

After we dropped off my chair, we went to Maryland. The husband was very nice. He and a friend of his helped Mike load the furniture onto our truck & Mike tied it down like a pro while I took the dogs out of the truck for some exercise.

At Merica House our only male aide, Eligi, brought the dolly to us. Eligi was extremely helpful & fast in getting the furniture into Cathy’s room. We left a mess as the female aides began emptying Cathy’s items from her old furniture to her new furniture. Cathy was very excited & anxious to redecorate her room.

In addition to her furniture, Cathy got to hold our Sadie-Lu puppy for a few minutes. They were sweet together.

Cathy, Mike Burkhart & Eligi

Outing to the Bible Museum

Outing to the Bible Museum

In January one of our great Volunteers, Martin Tillett, took 3 residents to the newly-opened Bible Museum in D.C.  Martin rode on MetroAccess with one of the residents while the other 2 residents took a 2nd MetroAccess van.

One of the highlights was a “live exhibit” in which they were shown how the first newspapers were printed.  They walked through a set of sculptures showing different stages in Jesus’ life.  Alvin said the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion was very realistic.









Pictures include a photo of Dee with the Capital behind her.  This was the first outing she’s had with Martin & Alvin.

News from Maureen

News from Maureen

Winter 2018








Spring 2014
Maureen moved to Merica House on March 6, 2007. As to what she likes best about Merica House, she says “It’s like a family.” She Maureen-2014slikes being with Dee, her sister.

Maureen’s favorite activities are going out to eat, shopping, reading books on tape, and “hanging out” with Dee and the other residents. She also participates in church choir. She likes to go to church and she goes to SPARC twice a week.

Maureen’s favorite foods are pizza, chicken patties, rice, and chocolate cake. Her favorite shows are Gilligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, King of Queens, Golden Girls, and The Brady Bunch.

Read More Read More

News from Deirdre

News from Deirdre

Winter 2018








Spring 2014
Dee likes going to SPARC and the National’s baseball games. When she’s at home at Merica House, she enjoys sitting with Matt, Sharita, Cathy, and Roxane in the family room, watching tennis and game shows like The Price is Right. She also likes listening to music on 91.9 WGTS.

Dee’s favorite foods ar

Dee Shields sang at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. March, 2014
Dee Shields sang at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.
March, 2014

e pizza, spaghetti, and cake. Her favorite teams are all the Washington sports teams.
Dee had a birthday party at Merica on March 15. She enjoyed her party, especially opening gifts and having friends and family with her. When asked what she likes best about living at Merica House, Dee said she likes living here….”it feels like home with all my friends.”

Fall 2011
On Sunday, Sept 11, 2011, Maureen and I, our brother, Andrew, and his girlfriend Astrid went to a major league baseball game to see the Nationals play the Astros. Before the game, Maureen and I met the broadcasters who announce the games on MASN (TV station). Their names were Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo. We had a great time at the game, except we forgot to get a picture with the broadcasters, so we’re going to do that next year. Good news, the Nationals WON!

News from Sean

News from Sean

Fall 2011

My summer was rough. I went to camp for two weeks this year.  The counselor assigned to me was okay, her name was Claire. I left camp injured. I was bitten by a spider/scorpion on my left ankle at camp. It was very painful. Upon my return to Merica House I was hospitalized in the Fairfax Hospital for two weeks. I am not sure if I’ll attempt going to camp next summer. My last year’s counselor is living nearby and we plan to hang around more often.

Maureen Shields

Maureen Shields

Maureen 2015

My name is Maureen Elizabeth Shields.  My nickname has always been “Mo.” I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York in 1979.  I lived in Monroe, New York, Coral Springs, Florida, and Ridgefield, Connecticut until 2000 when my family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia.

My Father worked as a Consultant for IBM and my Mom was a nurse.  I have 2 sisters and 1 brother.  I am the baby in the family.

When I lived in Connecticut, I stayed busy in activities such as the Challenger Baseball and Basketball Divisions for adults with physical disabilities.  I participated in a ski program through the Newington Children’s Hospital. My Father would take me once a week to do exercises.  Every Friday I would get out of school early to go skiing at Mt. Southington in Connecticut.

While I was in high school, I had the opportunity to participate in a school work program.  I left school early every day and worked at Allergy Control Products collating documents and doing pretty much everything.  I worked in the storage room and impressed my supervisors as one of their best workers.  The best part was getting paid for my efforts.  I worked there for 2 school years and during one summer.  I scheduled my own transportation and I was very independent.  I graduated in 1998.

Between 1998 and 2000 I continued working part-time at Allergy Control Products.  I volunteered at a Nursing Home.  I also worked with small children at Easter Seal’s Camp in Hebron, Connecticut.

In 2000 my family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia.  A year later my sister who has the same disability that I do, moved to Merica House in Falls Church, Virginia.  This had a huge impact upon my life because I was accustomed to her constant companionship.  In Williamsburg I continued attending a day program Monday through Friday at the Methodist Church.  I attended this program for 4 years and made many close friends.

My Disability and Me

It was determined in my first year of life that I have an undiagnosed, unusual form of leukodystrophy.  At about a year old, I experienced a series of seizures.  I received treatment and continued to develop normally, although I used a walker occasionally by age 4.  I had various surgeries to maintain my abilities throughout my first 20 years.  Eventually I was using a power wheelchair.  Early in 2000 I began to fall from my wheelchair and by mid-2000 I lost my sight.

Mitochondrial Leukodystrophy is one of many neurodegenerative diseases. It is very challenging.  I try to stay as positive as possible.  Going to church, praying, and listening to religious music are big factors in dealing with my disability.

My disability affects my whole body, except for my beautiful, thick auburn hair.  I have donated my hair to an organization called Pantene Beautiful Lengths 2-3 times. Pantene’s wigs benefit women whose hair loss is attributed to cancer.  When I donate my hair, I feel great because I know I am giving something precious to someone less fortunate.  Because of my experiences donating my hair, I plan on donating my eyes upon my death.  Due to my disability, I have complete blindness in both eyes, but the doctors say my eyes are fine – it’s just the signals from my brain to my eyes that are defective.  When people see me for the first time, they don’t realize that I am blind.  When I tell them, they are completely shocked.  Sometimes they get very emotional at the thought that I can’t see.  When I tell them that I plan on donating my eyes, they find that to be very admirable.

I can’t move any of my limbs.  Others have to do it for me.  From my waist down I can’t feel anything, including someone else’s touch or even hot water.  My legs are very flexible, but my arms and hands are tight and are difficult to stretch or open up.  I have a Physical Therapist who is helping me stretch out my tight muscles.  She is working with me on my balance by helping me sit on the edge of the bed without supports.

My disability affects my lungs to the point that it affects my communication with others.  I am a good communicator.  My speech patterns are normal and I love to chat, but I don’t have the lung capacity to speak loudly enough for others to hear me.  Presently I have a Speech Therapist.  I enjoy his visits when he tries to help me speak louder.  He is very compassionate and kind.

I can eat anything I want, but I have to be careful because I may choke.  If I choke, I have to try measures to calm myself because if I panic, I may aspirate.

Technology plays a big role in my life.  In 2001 my family met a vocational therapist specializing in Assistive Technology.  He has been kind enough to traverse between Williamsburg, Falls Church and Richmond in order to ensure that my sister and I have the proper equipment to help us communicate.  I use a microphone-looking pipe called a “Sip and Puff” to make phone calls and to turn my tv, stereo, and bedroom light off and on.  Now that I have that device, my life is easier because I don’t have to depend on other people for as many things.  A battery-powered head switch in the headrest of my wheelchair allows me to tilt the chair back in order to relieve pressure and prevent pressure sores.

Merica House and Me

In 2006 I joined my sister and moved into Merica House where we share a bedroom.  These days my new nickname is “MoMo.”  I enjoy being more independent.  I go out during the week to a day program called SPARC, Special Persons Adaptive Resource Club, a club for young adults with disabilities.  With my SPARC friends I go to the shopping mall, bowling, and to the movies.  I continued going to church, but now I go with my housemates to Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington, Virginia.  Once a month Father Matthew (from St. Anthony’s Catholic Church), Fred Day, a Board Member and friend, and several parishioners come over on a Saturday and conduct a small service for us.

Volunteers come to visit us at different times.  We enjoy birthday parties for each other because we are very good friends.  We also enjoy holiday parties and other special events.  Merica House is like my home away from home.

My favorite singer is Steven Curtis Chapman and my favorite group is Jars of Clay.  I listen to a lot of Christian music.  I like to read romantic novels.  I use a digital player specifically provided by the Library of Congress for the disabled.  I like family movies and I watch a lot of news.

My Favorites:

My favorite foods are taco salads and roast chicken.  My favorite drinks are different kinds of juices and water.  I also love Smoothies.  My favorite actors are Olivia Newton John and John Travolta.  My favorite movies are Grease and the Lion King.

Two of my caregivers have helped me get through some of my trials and tribulations.  Kelley, my nurse in Falls Church, and Clarissa, my Aide in Williamsburg, have been there for me, especially for the last year.  They are special ladies whom I love very much.

Observations about Maureen:

  • Roxane says that Maureen is a gentle soul with a spirituality that touches others.
  • Cathy says “Maureen is always asking questions – wanting to know things.”
  • Matt said “She’s nice.”
  • Dee, Maureen’s sister, says “I love her.”
  • Ayam, one of our newest Aides at Merica House, says “Maureen always takes her time to listen.  She doesn’t interrupt people when they are talking.”
  • Eunice, another new Aide, says “Maureen is sweet and lovely.”

Things to know about Maureen:

Maureen gets up every day around 7am.  She goes to her day program on Mondays and Wednesdays.  She leaves around 9am and returns around 2pm. On Sundays she goes to church, leaving around 10am and returning around 2pm.  She takes meds 5 times a day and occasionally has difficulty swallowing them.  On the days that she is home she likes to watch tv with other residents, listen to Christian music, read books, & nap in her chair.  She eats supper around 6pm and goes to bed at 7 or 8pm.  She takes her bedtime pills around 9pm with her tea.

Maureen’s disability primarily affects the volume of her speech.  She may have to repeat something 2-4 times before others can hear and understand her.  Sometimes this is overwhelming for her, but she pushes on and repeats herself as often as is necessary.

Maureen needs total assistance when she eats.  She can’t eat apples or popcorn because she may choke.  In the community, she will have to be fed and given her drink with a straw.  She does not mind if you touch her lips or inside her mouth when you are feeding her.

Maureen goes to a Day Program called SPARC, Special Persons Adapted Resource Club.  She goes twice a week and has many friends there.  At home Maureen enjoys reading her books, visiting with her housemates, spending time with Roxane, and listening to music.

Maureen can tell who is nearby by their steps and other attributes.  People are shocked by her ability to sense and recognize her surroundings in spite of her disability.

Maureen requires a lift to get in and out of bed or out of her wheelchair.  She uses a shower chair for bathing. She uses a manual wheelchair with a power tilt that she operates with her head.  When she goes into the community, she needs help getting things from the purse she carries on the back of her wheelchair.  She will instruct you as to where things are and what she needs.  She may give you permission to enter her PIN number or credit card number when she’s making a purchase.  She is perfectly capable of making good decisions and giving clear directions.

See more News from Maureen

Matt Renfro

Matt Renfro

Matt RenfroMy name is Matt Renfro. My family lives in Gainesville, VA., about 30 miles west of Washington, DC.

I was born 9 weeks premature, weighing 2 lbs. 12 oz. and spent the first 11 weeks of my life in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I have Cerebral Palsy (CP).

I attended public school from pre-school through high school, taking regular education classes. I graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, VA. in 2004. I enrolled at Strayer University right out of high school, so I don’t have any work experience yet. I am working on a BS degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS). I’m a big sports fan especially tennis, golf and college basketball. Also, I enjoy reading a good mystery novel.

News from Matt

Deirdre Shields

Deirdre Shields

Deirdre 2013I am Deirdre Shields and have lived at MH since 2001. I am 36 years old  years old and a graduate of Perkins School for the Blind in Waterstown, Mass. It was there where I learned the skills of independent living and it is here that I use them in my daily life.

I have been diagnosed with an unknown probable white matter disease of the brain. I had what seemed to be normal infant skills up to about 7 months of age and then neurological symptoms developed and over the past years it has left me blind and a quadriplegic.

I moved to Williamsburg, VA three years ago with my parents and one sister and it was there that I met Millie Becker, one of the founders of Merica House. Through her encouragement and help, I applied for residence and have since enjoyed living with the other clients and maintaining my independence.

See more News from Deirdre