Before taking the position as program coordinator with Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon about four years ago, Libby Kennard lived in Colorado where she was clinical director of a large senior living community.
PRO, based in Lake Oswego, has been around for more than 35 years, and the Eugene office is the only satellite branch. The main PRO office covers southwest Washington, all of Oregon and sometimes Northern California. “We help connect people to resources,” says Kennard.
When Libby first joined the Lane County team, the position was part time. A funding grant provided free office space, and a local hearing center hosted their support groups. When the hearing center closed, she was faced with needing to find appropriate space. And quickly.
“I thought I could work from home,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I’ve got a computer, a cell phone. I don’t need a lot. But that did not work out.”
Libby found herself working out of her car as she drove around. “I was disorganized,” she says. “I needed to find something else because my clients couldn’t speak confidentially if we met at a coffee shop.” Libby uses the conference space at Eugene Mindworks quite a bit. “It’s hard to find conference space that you can count on,” she says.
Soon after, her position went full time, and she started looking at rented office space. What she found was expensive, felt unsafe, and was not very flexible. The offices she looked at did not include a break room, and did not have an office manager to hold packages if she wasn’t available. Small offices just for one person were often located in areas of town where she didn’t feel comfortable having her clients come and park, and where she felt unsafe leaving work after dark. Or, they weren’t ADA accessible. “We couldn’t afford the extra things to make it doable,” she says, “like security or having to find separate conference rooms where we could hold our support groups.”
Libby feels good bringing her clients to Eugene Mindworks because the community space is inviting, there is plenty of free parking in the area, and the second floor is accessible by an elevator. “It meets their needs,” she says. “If spouses come along while we’re in our meetings they have a comfortable place to sit and access to water and a bathroom. They pick up a book and check out what’s around.”
Another advantage is that now that she is full-time in her own office, she’s much more visible to the community. Parkinson’s disease affects nearly one million people in the United States. Because there is no definitive test for Parkinson’s, symptoms may appear for years before people receive an accurate diagnosis. Researchers are hoping to develop better tests to detect the disease early on. In the meantime, organizations such as PRO will continue to connect people to resources. One upcoming event is the Sole Support 1K and 5K walk celebrating a community of support for those living with Parkinson’s disease. That takes place in Eugene on September 17, 2017. Visit solesupport.org to learn more.