REM Iowa offers variety of services to the disabled community

REM IowaMost people know REM Iowa for its assisted living residential services, but according to Lisa Pakkebier, REM Iowa’s executive director, the services the company provides touches lives in ways that were once thought of as impossible.

“Education and awareness of individuals with disabilities has helped the community become more accepting than it once was, “she said. “We continue the move towards community-based living, which allows those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to spend more time in the community through employment, community activities, and volunteer opportunities.”

REM Iowa began services in 1979 and opened its first Hiawatha home in 1989.  It now offers a variety of residential services, as well as day and vocational programs.

Staff members work with the individuals in their own homes to teach them how to complete everyday tasks such as housecleaning, laundry, shopping, and cooking. While most individuals need someone to stay with them 24/7, some may only need help with shopping or just to make sure they are taking care of themselves properly.

The individuals are provided residential services through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) or Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID).

A team of people, including the individual receiving services, family members, guardians, day program staff, REM residential staff, and other professionals involved in the life of the individual, meet to establish person centered planning.  This includes goals that will help the individual become more independent.

Sara Drish, area director for REM Iowa, said the day habilitation program is another option for individuals to develop skills that will allow them to become more independent.

Drish added that individuals who choose to spend time in the community also have the option to choose their peer group and facilitate their social activities they are involved in, as well as volunteering. .

“Individuals who are not employed, but interested in obtaining a job have the option of participating in the prevocational and job development program, which helps them build skills necessary to obtain a job,” she said.

The prevocational and job development program includes teaching individuals problem solving, following directions, punctuality, safety, customer service, as well as how to participate in an interview.

Drish said they are also taught how to use a computer to facilitate their job search, if that is their desire. “It’s all about what the individual wants to do,” she said. “They want the same things as everyone else- a job, a nice place to live, and a purpose in life. We do our best to help them obtain that.”

Drish said staff members work with individuals to figure out what kind of work is best suited for them through a discovery process.

“We work with a lot of different local organizations and offer our services to many in the community, not just the ones who utilize our residential services,” said Drish. “Some individuals live with their parents or on their own.”

REM Iowa has programs throughout Iowa, including Mount Vernon and Vinton, and recently began services in Blackhawk county.

Pakkebier said it is an important part of REM to give back to the community.  Last year they participated in National Volunteer Day and invited many associated with REM to help clean up Guthridge Park and Tucker Park.

“We are going to do it again this year, on April 25,” said Drish. “We thought it would be a good way to give back to the community and hope to see a greater turn-out this year.”

Pakkebier, who has been with REM for over 20 years, said she has learned so much from the individuals they serve.

“Not only do we help them, but we learn from them, too,” she said. “It is human nature to take what we have for granted … we should be more appreciative. The individuals we support often remind us of that.  We are blessed in many ways to be a part of their lives and their extended family.”

Drish agreed with Pakkebier. “Spending time in the community gives people a sense of purpose and strong self-esteem, adding value to their lives,” she said.  “Everyone needs to know they are valuable to the community and to the lives of others.”

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Camp Bow Wow offers dual services

Pet owners no longer have to stress if their pets don’t adapt to the services regular pet boarding provides.  Staff members at Camp Bow Wow, 860 N. 20th Ave., Hiawatha, will take care of pets in the comfort of their own homes.

Mackenzie Appleby, Manager of Camp Bow Wow, Hiawatha. Photo by Cynthia Petersen
Mackenzie Appleby, Manager of Camp Bow Wow, Hiawatha. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Mackenzie Appleby, manager of Camp Bow Wow, said Home Buddies is a great alternative for dogs who are not very social or get too stressed being around other dogs.

“Staff members will come to your house and take care of all kinds of pets, as well as bring in the paper and water plants.”

Camp Bow Wow is locally owned by Shawn Mercer. The facility was opened eight years ago and provides around-the-clock daycare for dogs.

Monitors throughout the facility keep tabs on the dogs in their “cabins,” as well as the play yards.  Owners can access the monitors on their personal computers, iPads, and phones.

According to Appleby, their customers like seeing the dogs anytime they want.

“I think it comforts them to know that their pets are being well-cared for.”

There are 12 “camp counselors” at Camp Bow Wow, who take care of the dogs and provide other services, such as bathing and de-shedding treatments.

“It’s similar to human day care,” said Appleby. “We have to follow similar regulations and have periodic inspections.”

The dogs have their own cabins, which includes a favorite blanket and toys. They are taken into the play yard several times a day to socialize with the other dogs and play.

“We have a motto,” said Appleby. “’All day play, snooze the night away.’ We keep them active as much as we can during the day and then before we put them to bed at night, we give them a campfire snack, usually a frozen ‘Kong’ filled with peanut butter.”

The dogs and their owners go through a process when they first join, with an initial free in-home consultation. If all goes well, a meet and greet is held at the facility, where the dogs are introduced to one or two dogs of similar size. The dogs are put together in the play yard to see how well they get along before introducing them slowly to the other dogs.

“We want to make it a pleasant experience for the dogs,” said Appleby. “If we see that it is just too difficult for the dogs, we usually recommend the in-home care.”

Two foster dogs are also cared at the facility. Cap Bow Wow is working with Dogs Forever  to help make the dogs more adoptable by training them and caring for them until someone adopts them.

“We try to help when we can,” said Appleby, and added that Camp Bow Wow will be holding an adoption event March 20 at the facility, in conjunction with Dogs Forever.

“And later this year, probably in June, we will be kicking off the summer with a family-oriented adoption event,” she continued. “We will be working with Dogs Forever to raise funds for the Cedar Valley Humane Society. There will be a bouncy house and face painting, plus a lot of other fun activities.”

Camp Bow Wow takes care of up to 60 dogs in their facility a day, but Appleby said it’s hard to approximate because it changes all the time.  “It’s kind of slow right now, but it will be a lot busier in the summer when people go on vacation.”

Appleby, who started at Camp Bow Wow as a camp counselor four years ago, said the staff members take care of the dogs as they would their own.

“It’s a fun place to work,” she said. “I’ve heard it said that if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life. That’s how I feel. I love my job.”