For anyone who knows Candy Beck, they can attest to what a blessing she is to those in the Bonners Ferry community. Her heart, compassion and energy are evident the moment you meet her. Candy works with adults in Bonners Ferry who have special needs and has not only opened up her heart to them but her home as well, having two women who are her longtime clients share her home.
In 2001, Candy began working with a company called Partnership for Inclusion, which was owned by Lisa Robbe. “She was my educator, mentor and friend,” said Candy. “I cannot give Lisa enough praise. She is skilled, focused and compassionate.”
Lisa, who is now an attorney in Washington state, and Candy worked with children who were on the autism spectrum and also those who were developmentally disabled. But it was quickly noticed there was a need for services for adults with special needs in Bonners Ferry. “That is my niche,” said Candy. She describes that without transportation or agencies that can provide services, she was saddened by how little the adults with special needs could get out into the community. Candy changed all of that.
She opened her own business, Bonners Ferry Adult Social, so she could work with the special needs adult community of Bonners Ferry. After all, she said, it is about giving her clients the freedom to be involved in their community and socialize with others.
While working with adults in the community over the past 17 years, she has also had the opportunity to expose community members to much of what is important when interacting with those with special needs.
“For non-verbal special needs adults, I’ve helped them find ways to communicate,” said Candy, emphasizing that it is important for others to realize they should give those with special needs choices, no matter if they are verbal or non-verbal. “We should not be telling them what to do.” It is important to teach them how to make good choices and understand boundaries.
Candy also said those who are non-verbal typically take longer to process information. She shares this information with waiters and waitresses who serve the group. Those who they see regularly now know to pause and wait while taking their orders. And those waiters and waitresses have become friends as well. “We went into a restaurant in Sandpoint, and the staff was thrilled to see all of us as we hadn’t been there in quite some time,” said Candy of the relationships the group has built not just in Bonners Ferry but communities from Coeur d’Alene to Canada and east to Troy, Montana.
Candy said the feedback she receives from the communities they visit has been nothing but positive. “There is a huge desire from the community to interact more with the clients,” she said. Also, family members of her clients say that when they are out with their loved ones, they are thrilled to see how many people know and love the clients.
Candy said that as adults, those with special needs want what everyone else does. “They want a life. They want to be as independent as they can be. They want friends. They want respect. And they want to be treated their age.” It’s truly that simple.
There are few idle moments as Candy teaches the adults about friendships, volunteer work and more as they take advantage of every outing.
“If we don't show up at the Senior Center (in Bonners Ferry) at least once a week, I get a call,” laughs Candy as she delights in the eagerness of people to have visits with her clients.
Reflecting, Candy shares that she is pleased with how society has changed from decades ago. “Those with special needs were always separated from others in school, including eating at a different table during lunch time,” said Candy. “The message we were getting from society was always one of exclusion.”
Her clients, who range in age from 34 to 76, have participated in the county fair, submitting some of their artwork, and Candy’s group has rediscovered the local library. “There is so much there,” said Candy.
Next on Candy’s list is to find land where they can assist the adult special needs community even more. It is Candy and friend Mary Joseph’s desire to create a place with a garden, trails and space to build small homes but also have 24-hour care on site. It would be a place to bring in others who can train, educate and support the families of those living with special-need family members. “It would be a blessing to the entire community,” she said. Candy feels Bonners Ferry’s greatest resource is not being utilized, where this small, friendly, tight-knit community has a unique ability to provide adults with special needs the opportunity to live safely, advance independent living and afford the care they deserve.
In Candy’s eyes, there is only one disability in life. “Loneliness is the only disability,” said Candy. “It’s a privilege what I do. I get to help these people discover their lives. And it’s really a selfish act because I get so much from them.”
Bonner Ferry Adult Social is a private agency serving the community of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. They provide the following:
Activities and fun
Their Mission: Support individuals in pursuing their interests, friendships and joy.
Their Goal: To eliminate the only disability—loneliness. To find out more, contact Bonners Ferry Adult Social at 208.290.3766 or email Candy at firstname.lastname@example.org.