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Moving Forward: Elena’s story of recovery

3-Elena King Story 018nFour years ago, when Elena arrived at Windemere, a Monarch home for adults diagnosed with mental illness, she was dressed in black and she wasn’t smiling.

“When she first came in we thought, this is going to be a long haul,” said Jerome Conner, operations manager at Windemere and Circle Drive homes in Cabarrus County.

Monarch was Elena’s third placement in three years, along with several hospitalizations. She also had trouble adjusting at school and in social settings due to mental health issues and a developmental disability. Her parents, while extremely supportive, knew she needed extra support to help her with her social skills and to assist her with finishing her high school degree.

Slowly, Elena began to work on a plan with Monarch staff.

She made a list of goals, went back to school and started a volunteer program with Habitat for Humanity in Kannapolis. Conner explained that while at Habitat, Elena got a job coach and learned how to take feedback and use that information to improve. She also spent time in a compensatory education program at Rowan Cabarrus Community College learning computer skills for future job opportunities.

She began to make a change in how she interacted with others and think before she spoke. Conner noted that Elena’s determimation to pratice more self control helped her learn to get along with people.

During her time at Windemere, she continued to volunteer, meet with Monarch staff and a psychiatrist, finished high school and worked on new skills with fellow residents at the house.

One of those skills was cooking. At Windemere, it is a requirement that residents cook once a week for those living at the home. Conner said she went from not wanting to cook at all to volunteering for it.

“She now has confidence and a feeling like she’s accomplished something,” he said.

The process for self improvement wasn’t always easy though.

“It was hard, I did have a temper, but after I got used to the home, I knew I couldn’t rush. I had to go with the flow and get along with everybody,” she said.

Now, four years later, Elena has met her challenges, learned how to take things as they come, and is moving on. Conner said she went over her goals every day with staff and has learned to receive help. “She’s made such strides.”

And because of those strides she has graduated to a lower level of supervision. Elena will soon be moving to an Assisted Family Living (AFL) residence, and it is the next step in her progress. AFL is a housing option for people who want to be more independent while living in a supportive setting, and Elena will be living with a family in Union County. 

“I’m excited about moving, change is good,” Elena said. “I’ve been told this is the next step in my life to being independent.”

Conner also attributes Elena’s success to her parents and Michael Crawford, the qualified professional at Windemere.

“It could not have been possible if it weren't for her parents. They too had the courage to ask for help. They not only supported Elena through the good and not so good, but they supported Monarch as well. Their support and communication solidified Elena's team,” Conner said.

“Ms. Elena is an example that you can overcome challenges if you have the courage. She became an example for others. She chose to learn, she had enough courage to do things differently.”

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