The Citizen Advocate: Spring 2011 News

Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy is a 32 year old Savannah-based non profit that recruits, matches and offers support to over 125 local citizens who engage in one-to-one citizen advocate matches to offer protection from neglect and harm and advocacy for inclusion and better civic and social opportunities for citizens with developmental disabilities in our community.


Citizen Advocacy is built upon freely given voluntary relationships between the two people and advocates are invited to understand, represent and respond to that person’s interests as if they were
the advocate’s own.


Listening to Citizen Advocates…


I had a quick coffee with citizen advocate Chris Middleton. Chris is an attorney here in Savannah and his days start early. He and a man named Rick Black* have been matched for a year this month so it was a good time to catch up on some of what’s been going on. Rick lives
in a group home here in Savannah.


“Rick and I did some hanging out this weekend. He came over to my house and we washed my car together and ate lunch together.” There is nothing more ordinary and manly than men and cars. This is how trust is built.


People find ways to spend time together, get to know one another and gradually come to care about
each other and what happens to one other. This is the ground from which spokesmanship and action grow.




I ran into citizen advocate Richard Lane at Barfood in the Habersham Shopping Center. He and his protégé Denise* had been at the mall the previous evening shopping for Denise – new shoes, new outfit.


“I really don’t spend much time in the women’s section at Stein Mart, but there we were, with me offering my humble opinion about women’s fashion.” A few minutes later three of Richard’s friends came in to meet him. Two of them have heard about Denise through Richard. I was sort of a “rock star” since I was the “introducer” between Denise and Richard.


I introduced Richard to Denise several months ago because Denise needed a Representative Payee. Richard accepted and he now helps Denise manage her monthly finances. He also helps Denise with some errands and shopping. This sort of neighborliness is something that can happen naturally between people. It’s the sort of thing that sometimes needs a little encouraging as well.


Denise is a change agent. She changes people’s ideas about who is supposed to know and care about
whom. This is going to be one of the “big stories” in the culture over the next decade or so. Richard and Denise are prophets as they help people around them see neighborliness in action.




Citizen advocate Jane Fishman recently told a lovely story about spending time with her protégé Natalie* and Natalie’s mother. They all spent the day in Natalie’s neighborhood walking around, pushing Natalie’s wheelchair, looking at people’s gardens, talking about who
people in the neighborhood are. Just taking the time to be together and see good things all around.


Jane was invited to meet Natalie at a time when various human service agencies were pushing for her to be removed from her family, a time when no one was valuing the complexity of family life. None of the people who were pushing this had spent much, if any time, at Natalie and her mom’s house.


A citizen advocate takes the time to be with people, to see what is going on in a person’s life first hand. This is true of Jane, who is beginning to “feel like family.” This match is deepening
and becoming a relationship that can offer enjoyment to everyone and protection to Natalie.


*Names have been changed to honor privacy

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