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Adult Care in Oklahoma - The Client

by Ron Jackson, Staff Reporter Published: November 27, 2009
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photo -  Michael Avila pushes his way into a pat on the back from his teacher Leonilda Jones during a day at Metropolitan Day Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, August 26, 2009. Michael, 38, has cerebral palsy. He doesn't speak, explains Jones,
Michael Avila pushes his way into a pat on the back from his teacher Leonilda Jones during a day at Metropolitan Day Center in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, August 26, 2009. Michael, 38, has cerebral palsy. He doesn't speak, explains Jones, "laughing is his way of communicating, and hugs. He loves to hug." By John Clanton, The Oklahoman
MIDWEST CITY — Thirty-eight-year-old Michael Avila paces his front lawn each weekday morning, awaiting the 6 a.m. bus that carries him to Oklahoma City. He even stands in the rain, undeterred by the thought of being drenched.

He is stubbornly focused. Missing the bus is not an option. If the bus is late, Avila’s internal clock will sound. Frustrated, he will slap his hand against the glass door in his home’s entryway. His mother fears he will someday break the glass.

Avila, who has mental retardation and cerebral palsy, is unaware of his own strength. That isn’t all he doesn’t know.

The destination he so covets — the Metropolitan Better Living Center — may soon be forced to close its doors to him and 33 other developmentally disabled clients unless emergency funding arrives at the 11th hour. Metropolitan has been experiencing a financial crisis for several years, and has been surviving off charitable donations and fund-raisers since June, according to the center’s executive director, Jacquelyn Parks.“I don’t know how much longer we can continue to hang on,” Parks tearfully said. “If we don’t find a way to come up with some money, people like Michael won’t have anywhere to go. They’ll either go into nursing homes or be left home alone to take care of themselves. If that happens, they’ll end up burning down their house.”

“The people say, ‘Pull up your bootstraps.’ Well, these people don’t have any boots.”

Parks strongly suspects Michael Avila is one of those people in need.“He loves it here,” said Leonilda Jones, Avila’s caregiver at the center. “This is his haven ... I can’t even imagine him not being able to come here.”

Neither can his mother.

Maria Woods, 63, depends heavily on the adult day care center. Nearly crippled by two bad knees, Woods cares for her adult son and daughter (Susie Avila, 36) at their modest brick home in Midwest City. Susie has a learning disability and like her older brother is unable to care for herself. The three have been alone since Maria’s husband, Robert L. Woods, died in 2006 at age 81. Woods was a former World War II POW who had a stroke in 1999, and Maria took care of him the final six and half years of his life.

“When he (Robert) had the stroke, I had to have somewhere for Michael to go,” Woods said.

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