From the moment you shake her hand, Harriet Smith is leading you to a Sage Crosswoods activity room to show you all the fun she and her fellow participants are having. “This is the action place honey!” she will tell you.
Diagnosed with a mild developmental disability, Harriet embodies the spirit of Goodwill with her sunny disposition and caring nature. She is fondly known as the “welcome wagon” at Sage Crosswoods. “I like it here. That’s why I come every day,” Harriet said. “I can’t wait to come here the next morning, it’s true!” Sage Crosswoods serves individuals with developmental disabilities, age 45 and older, many with increased age-related needs. “It could be raining outside, or snowing, but Harriet is here, she’s happy and she’s ready to go,” said Sage Crosswoods program manager Corrina Hyde. “No matter what the day brings, she’s ready.”
At 78, Harriet’s bubbly personality and enthusiasm for everything she does is contagious. “I’ve got so much energy, I don’t know what to do with it,” Harriet said. Harriet has one big rule: You have to smile when you’re at Sage Crosswoods. Activity Specialist Lea Allred can attest to this. “If one of her peers comes in and is not smiling or not happy, somehow, some way, Harriet will get them smiling and dancing before she leaves,” Allred said.
Many who have met Harriet would be surprised to learn that the social butterfly was once a bit shy. “She has really blossomed into a sunflower,” Allred added. “She smiles all the time, she is constantly helping people.” Harriet makes an impact on her peers every day, helping them overcome their own barriers such as shyness, taking special care when they are sick, and teaching them how to create beautiful crafts made of braided thread. Sage Crosswoods staff taught Harriet how to braid, and she in turn began to teach her peers the craft. Soon, Goodwill participants from other programs were being bused in to learn braiding from Harriet. “You just feel good showing somebody what you can do,” Harriet said. “Then maybe they’ll like to do it.”
When she is not at Sage Crosswoods, Harriet enjoys her independent life in the community. Once a resident of group homes, she relishes living life for herself, setting her own schedule, and making her own decisions. Her independent spirit made her a natural addition to the Sage Crosswoods Participant Advisory Council, where she advocates for her Crosswoods peers. The council offers participants a direct line of communication to staff, and allows them to freely discuss their feelings about the program and make suggestions for improvements.
Harriet is among a small group of Sage Crosswoods participants who engage in activities at the Franklin County Parks & Recreation Senior Center, where they socialize with other seniors in the community. Harriet wasted no time when she first arrived at the center, and immediately jumped into a dance class. “It fun to do different things,” Harriet said. “That’s what it’s all about!”
Harriet’s determination to make the most of each day is a testament that anyone can push past barriers to live their fullest life. Harriet was named one of Goodwill Columbus's 2013 Extraordinary People Honorees. Watch the video!
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