The morning was quiet except for the soft murmur of voices and shuffling of papers around on desks. At first glance, it would appear to be any other workspace. But then the doors opened and as the individuals arrived at Hope Haven, the place came alive.
Lynn Dixson, the Community Access Group Program Manager at Hope Haven, is able to see this transition every day. Hope Haven is a nonprofit corporation that exists to “prepare, empower, and support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to participate fully in the community,” according to the organization’s website. To accomplish its mission, Hope Haven employs people like Lynn Dixson to invest in the lives of the individuals.
Originally from Marietta, Dixson came to Hope Haven three years ago having little experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities. She did, however, have a compassionate heart and a willingness to learn how Hope Haven worked.
Dixson received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, religion, and Spanish from what is now Mercer University, so her educational background influenced her ability to adapt and understand the people she was working with in her job. She is currently getting her Master’s in counseling, which will increase her investment in her work. That is, if she can be more invested.
Dixson joked that her husband won’t let her talk about work at home. Some may say that she’s too engrossed in her work, but she sees her investment as much more than just work.
“I consider this for myself as a ministry,” Dixson said of her job. Specifically, she organizes the individuals’ programs they participate in throughout the day, including volunteering at a local park or doing non-volunteer tai chi classes, among other activities. Specializing now in community integration, Dixson used to help individuals attain jobs and supportive employment, but as the day center grew, so did the need to be out in the community.
“We’re always trying to find more activities in the communities,” Dixson said. She also expressed the desire to make the activities the individuals take part in meaningful. Some of the individuals have begun taking instructional classes, which Dixson oversees and coordinates to enable them to participate.
Derrick S., an individual who regularly attends the center, spoke of the technology class he’s currently taking. Dixson enrolled him in the class and accompanied him, showing her support for his decision to learn. It is in these outside of the job description responsibilities that Dixson’s caring heart shines even brighter than from behind her desk.
“It’s a strange day if Lynn stays in her office the whole time,” said Abby Guadagno, a senior social work major from UGA who is interning at Hope Haven this year. Guadagno spoke of Dixson’s investment in the people she works with and the individuals who come to the community access group. She is out among the people. It would be easy for her to remain in her office, but Dixson focuses on building relationships and tending to needs.
On multiple occasions, Dixson has advocated for individuals in court. She spoke of “how rewarding it is to serve as an advocate”, expressing that it is meaningful to help people get the help and treatment they often need. Through her advocacy and passionate approach to serving the individuals and her staff, Dixson garners respect from the workers under her and the individuals they work with.
Shoko Uno, a direct service technician at Hope Haven, noticed the impact Dixson working there has. Uno has a team of seven individuals she works with throughout the day. Like Guadagno, she said that Dixson is often out among the individuals and directing the programs in which her team members participate.
“I think there should be another one of her,” Uno said of Dixson and the amount of work on her plate each day.
With her office walls covered in photos of the individuals at various events, all smiling and happy, Dixson proudly displays the people she cares so deeply about. She can tell you every person’s name in each photograph and what they are like. She invests in them in order to understand how she can help better their lives and her efforts do not go unnoticed.
To learn more about Hope Haven, visit hopehaven.net for more details on the organization.