Stuck in the pandemic-era: Tigard woman misses gatherings with peers

FOX 12's Kandra Kent talks with one woman who longs to return to her beloved classes.
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 11:23 AM PDT
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TIGARD, Ore. (KPTV) - For more than two years, 27-year-old Devon May of Tigard has logged on and greeted her classmates over video, as she attends classes from her bedroom four hours a day, five days a week.

The bi-product of the COVID-era is now over for many students but still continues for intellectually disabled adults who, pre-pandemic, attended classes and activities here at the Edwards Center in Aloha.

“We’re just waiting for it to open now and it’s not happening,” May told FOX 12 earlier this fall.

One of her favorite activities at the center was playing bingo.

“I like sitting with my people --- not just sitting down --mostly eating,” May explained.

And if you ask her mother, Jackie May, seeing her daughter sit at home is tough.

“It’s heartbreaking – and it’s not really the education – it’s the socialization, it’s the peer comradery,” her mother said.

The Edwards Center, which is a nonprofit that serves people who are developmentally disabled, not only runs its center but also provides housing and care for adults who can’t entirely live on their own.

The nonprofit’s executive leader, Allen Cress, said it’s tough to see the center so empty, but the program is currently down nine employees and needs more staff to fully re-open.

“The limiting factor for us today is for us to be able to staff our programs,” Cress said.

SEE ALSO: Washington state lifts last COVID-19 emergency orders

An employee shortage, which is another result of the pandemic.

Cress said some activities have recently resumed, like group outings for shopping or sporting events. However, the program’s structure will likely be much different going forward.

“Historically we’ve had a lot of people here in a center, and this is where people would come to get engaged in activities, engage with other people and it’s all great, wonderful stuff, our emphasis moving forward will be on community engagement,” Cress said.

Life skills such as cooking, using transportation, basic hygiene. While Jackie May agrees all of it has been invaluable for her daughter, she just hopes peer connection will make a meaningful comeback.

“She’s missing out on that and it’s sad and frustrating when you can’t do anything about it,” May said.