Thanksgiving Celebration

Thanksgiving Meal Delivery

As COVID-19 cases surge across the country and the Kansas City Metro, the holidays look different for many families in 2020. Life Unlimited is doing everything it can to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are separated from family and loved ones can maintain a sense of normalcy during the holiday season.

Life Unlimited staff delivered prepared Thanksgiving meals from Hy-Vee to 68 homes and more than 250 individuals with I/DD.

“The health, safety, and happiness of the people we serve are always our top priority,” Vice President of Community Living Mary Davis said. “We are elated to see our community and staff come together to make sure they still have memorable holiday moments, especially when we have to be away from loved ones this year.”

On Nov. 12, after monitoring the increasing community spread of COVID-19 and following recommendations from local health organizations, the Life Unlimited leadership team decided to suspend all visits, including holiday visits, to mitigate infection risks for the foreseeable future.

“This is a heartbreaking decision that we did not want to have to make,” Chief Program Officer Amy Taylor said. “While we had hoped we could modify our weekly visits by creating safe zones and put extra precautions in place to allow for holiday meals with families, we realized these precautions will not be enough to keep every staff member and individual safe.”

The agency shared this news with family members and guardians during a virtual meeting and encouraged them set up online meetings and call as much as possible in lieu of in-person visits.

“Our daughter has handled the news of visits being stopped remarkably—and surprisingly—well,” Pamela Snow, the mother of a woman who receives support from Life Unlimited said. “A staff member assured her they were all in this together and would get through this together. She told me that was a big comfort to her. She knows Life Unlimited is trying to make this time special for all its residents, and that means a lot to her personally. We are sad about the situation, but her being at peace helps her father and I be more at peace.”

“While we know this is the best decision for our staff and individuals, we are still incredibly saddened to have to make it,” Taylor said. “We will now be shifting our focus to the internal celebrations we will plan for each individual and home to make these holidays as festive as possible during this time.”

Teams quickly made plans to purchase and distribute meals to all Life Unlimited residences across Kansas City. The Hy-Vee meals will include ham, turkey, mashed or au gratin potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, and other traditional sides.

These holiday celebrations were made possible through an annual donation from The Arc of Clay and Platte Counties. The Arc is a national agency with hundreds of state and local chapters across the country that provide resources for individuals with I/DD, their families, and the organizations that support them.

Throughout the pandemic, individuals with I/DD across the country have faced separation from their families, friends, and communities. Depending on their disability, they may have difficulty maintaining a safe distance, wearing a mask, or even understanding why the precautions and safety measures are needed.

Because people with I/DD are three times more likely to die if they have COVID-19, Life Unlimited has taken a strategic and proactive approach to limit exposures since March. It was the first disability agency in the area to close its day programs and other services at the onset of the pandemic, and direct support professionals in homes are required to wear two layers of protection—both a face mask and plastic shield—during all shifts.

“We know suspending holiday visits and other restrictive decisions are very difficult for everyone involved, but we feel we need to make some sacrifices now so we can all celebrate together when the pandemic is behind us,” CEO Julie Edlund said.

For now, Life Unlimited will continue smaller in-home festivities and other fun activities throughout the holiday season to ensure as little disruption as possible for people with I/DD in Kansas City.