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When our son, Nathaniel (Nate to almost everyone else), was in his early 30’s he began expressing his desire to move out of our family home.  Knowing that a network of supports would be necessary in order for him to live successfully, we began looking at various options.  Several years of searching and still nothing seemed quite right until we met the Milfords.  After sitting at the table with Allan, Patty and Steven and learning about their plans for SMILE, we knew they shared our dreams for a supported living residence and this was an opportunity we had to pursue.

Nathaniel has now been at SMILE for approximately six months.  In that short time, he has blossomed!  Having lived on a small farm in the “country” all his life, we were concerned that the move to Hopatcong might be too much of a change.  The opposite seems to be true with so many more opportunities available to him.  Through a variety of social activities made available through SMILE, he has become more outgoing and comfortable communicating with people.  Due to the more urban location of SMILE, he now participates in a day program where he is able to build on his mechanical skills – a source of pride – while at the same time learning to function in a job-related environment.  At SMILE whenever possible Nathaniel is given the opportunity to make his own choices and participate in household chores such as meal planning and preparation, shopping, errands, cleaning and group outings. 

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The SMILE staff is always there to support Nathaniel in pursuing his individual interests which at present range from gardening to learning to play the guitar.  He demonstrates a more confident and positive attitude which has helped to increase his willingness to participate in and try new activities.  The advantage of living with a peer group of individuals has also brought about a change.  He is more in tune with others’ needs and feelings and more willing to advocate on behalf of himself and his housemates.

It is obvious from the many photos and comments the SMILE staff shares with us that Nathaniel is happy there.  Family and friends notice that Nathaniel is more outgoing and communicative.  As parents, we are grateful to SMILE for providing a safe and well-designed building for our son to live in.  We are probably even more grateful to SMILE for providing caring staff and a family environment where Nathaniel and his friends can continue to grow as individuals and become more independent in a happy, relaxed and social atmosphere in the years to come.

-LuAnn Bartsch

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