VOA VOICES: Walt & Dale

Walt Pierce met Dale Moore nearly 40 years ago, when he visited a group home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Walt was interested in volunteer opportunities, and originally wasn’t scheduled to meet with Dale but with another resident.

“As soon as I arrived, Dale latched on to me. He grabbed my hand and stayed by my side. We’ve been friends ever since,” Walt said.

Through the Adult Foster Care program administered by Volunteers of America in northern Kentucky, Walt has been more than a friend to Dale. Dale has now lived with Walt for nearly 30 years.

Because of the Volunteers of America’s program and Walt’s commitment, Dale has a safe, comfortable and welcoming home and a dedicated caregiver and companion.

Day-to-day care is essential for Dale, who has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Walt is Dale’s primary caregiver and helps with all of Dale’s needs, from bathing to dressing to taking him for medical appointments. But Walt is even more focused on giving Dale a sense of inclusion and companionship.

“Dale is no different from so many people. He gets restless or bored easily, but he loves to do things. He loves to get out of the house and be around people. He really likes to go out to eat and go to the movies. He loves to travel and take vacations and that’s one of our favorite things to do,” Walt said.

Dale and Walt take several vacations every year and have visited one of their favorite spots, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many times. They recently took a trip to Amish country, where Dale and Walt toured a farm in a horse and buggy.

“Dale really enjoyed that trip and being able to be around so many horses. I’m always looking for things he likes to do and have learned so much. He loves boats and boat rides and we’ve had a lot of fun at Port Clinton on Lake Erie,” Walt said.

The care Walt has provided now spans decades. When Walt went to Dale’s group home looking to volunteer, Dale was 12 years old. He will turn 53 in October. With one break when Dale needed heightened medical care, Dale has been living with Walt since 1989.

“People ask me how I do it, but the truth is it’s very rewarding. Dale is a very loving person. That comes through when you meet him and certainly when you spend time with him. He’s always smiling and wants to give you a hug,” Walt said.

The Adult Foster Care program is administered by Jessica Martinez from the Volunteers of America office in Florence, Kentucky. Volunteers of America helps to conduct extensive training for caregivers, provides administrative support and monitors the home and Dale’s care. Walt is a contracted Volunteers of America employee and works closely with Jessica and the Volunteers of America team.

“When Walt talks to me about Dale, you can hear the concern and love in his voice. I know Dale is with someone who really cares about him,” Jessica said. That level of dedication is vital in the Adult Foster Care program.

“Our Adult Foster program is unique. You are really making a lifetime commitment. To do it well takes somebody with a strong sense of wanting to serve, of wanting to provide for someone else,” Jessica said. “We are very careful about who we choose. We want someone, like Walt, who is very driven by our mission.”

After nearly 40 years, Walt has a simple way to describe Dale: he’s family.

“My family immediately took Dale to heart. My mom accepted Dale right away and they are very close. My nieces and nephews grew up with him and soon we’re going to a big family reunion. My family is Dale’s family,” Walt said.

And after so much time together, Walt often thinks about how he and Dale have changed each other’s lives.

“I’m always thinking about where Dale would be without me. But I also think about my life and what he has meant to me. I would absolutely do it again. No question,” Walt said.