(EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is the fourth in a yearlong series of real-life stories of people who benefit from the services provided by the Lycoming County United Way Program Partners and those who make it possible).
Forty-eight-year old Pedie McDonald gets up and goes to work at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday like most people. Every day he takes his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes and an apple for lunch and rides a River Valley Transit bus to work. At work he takes on whatever task is assigned to him from assembling parts to packing envelopes or applying labels to products.
Pedie loves sports Loyalsock high school, Penn State, Lycoming College, Bucknell University and NASCAR are his favorites. Every summer, he and his brother go to the Pocono 500 to cheer on Jeff Gordon. With his excellent memory, he can rattle off team, player or driver statistics to rival a professional journalist on ESPN. His friends and family describe Pedie as honest, friendly, kind, and hard-working. He has lived in Loyalsock his whole life and goes to church every Sunday.
Pedie McDonald stands at the employees entrance to Hope Enterprises, where he goes to work each day.
So what's so different about Pedie?
He is mentally handicapped.
Generally most people don't think twice about going to work or going about their daily routine, however for Pedie, those typical daily activities do not come easily. What does come easily is his joyous, positive outlook on life. "Monday is my favorite day of the week because I love going to work at Hope and being busy," Pedie exclaimed.
Pedie has been a program participant of Hope Enterprises for 25 years. Hope enhances the lives of people with developmental disabilities from birth through adulthood by providing them with responsive programs and services.
Hope has taught Pedie how to ride the public bus on his own and how to read and write his name and address. "My favorite part of the day is classroom," said Pedie. His teacher Barb Ohmeiss says he is, "a good listener and leader."
"I have good friends here," said Pedie. "I learn a lot and have fun every day."
Pedie's mom, Peachy McDonald, is grateful to have the Hope facility for Pedie. "If he didn't go to work every day, he would probably sit at home and watch TV. He'd be bored.
"The staff at Hope is fantastic. They are compassionate, sensitive and hard-working," Peachy said. "They have made a huge difference in Pedie's quality of life."
"And don't ask Pedie a question if you don't want an honest answer," warned his father, Peyton McDonald. "About 20 years ago we were in Florida and Pedie met baseball player Bobby Meacham at spring training. Bobby was trying out for the Yankees and when he made reference to whether or not he would make the cut, Pedie said to Bobby, 'Don't worry, you aren't going to make it.' and I turned 10 shades of red."
Hope Enterprises is one of the more than 40 human service programs in Lycoming County funded by United Way. Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way recently awarded $64,000 to Hope Enterprises based on community needs and program outcomes.
"Transportation costs are very expensive," said Dr. Jim Campbell, president of Hope Enterprises. "Some of our individuals use public transportation, a few have private transportation, but the vast majority of the people we serve need our help to get here. The funding we receive from United Way allows us to transport them safely to and from work."
Pedie's father has been a long-time supporter of United Way.
"I have volunteered with and donated to United Way for many years because it is an efficient and community-based organization. The allocation process holds program partners accountable and I know my donation is invested with forethought right here in Lycoming County," said Peyton.
"Hope Enterprises gives their people a sense of purpose and teaches them basic life skills," said Kate Pacacha, director of resource development and communications for Lycoming County United Way. "We are happy to be able to provide funding to support their mission."