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Cooking, washing dishes, shopping for groceries, and working may be things most of us take for granted, but for Mark Sanmann, mastering these skills has given him the ability to live independently in his very own home. Mark, a participant at Adelante’s Independent Living program and an associate employee at Adelante Document Destruction Services, graciously opened up his home and workplace to give our readers a glimpse into the success he has achieved with help from Adelante.

This week, Mark worked on his cooking goals with his Independent Living staff Dan Valencia. His recipe: Turkey a la King.

Adelante’s Independent Living team members work with people with disabilities in their own homes or apartments, or with people working toward living alone. They help people track their medications to make sure they take them when and how they should, they teach people to cook and shop for food, to handle their banking, and maintain their health.

Once a week participants have a recreation night to ensure people get out and participate in the community while working on skills like handling money. The participants may go out to dinner or a movie, or other special events. Mark likes to go to local plays with his support staff members.

Living independently is an important choice for adults with disabilities to have. Mark says, “I like living on my own and having the ability to make my own choices and do what I want. I also enjoy having help when I need it. I’m very proud of my independence.” 

Mark is on the left wearing a turquoise shirt. Dan is on the right wearing a brown plaid shirt. The stove is in between them. Mark is smiling and mixing ingredients in a pan.
Mark cooking with Dan’s support.

Adelante’s Independent Living team also helps people with disabilities to do their shopping and other errands. “When we go out shopping, Mark basically knows what he needs. He memorizes everything,” Dan iterated. “But I keep an eye on his costs. I encourage him to make healthy choices.” Because Mark wants to focus on eating healthy foods, Mark and Dan research recipes on the internet before they go grocery shopping. This week Mark and Dan shopped for ingredients for his next recipe, vegetable soup.

Mark and Dan both look down in a supermarket cooler to choose fruit. Mark is wearing a navy blue shirt and Dan is wearing and blue and red plaid shirt.
Here, Mark chooses fruits and vegetables when grocery shopping.

Because Adelante’s goal is to help our participants with disabilities gain as much independence as possible, the nonprofit’s staff members provide individualized support that depend on each person’s needs and goals. For example, one of Mark’s ongoing goals is improving his safety skills. Dan helps Mark work on his safety by prompting him to monitor his surroundings while walking, as well as teaching Mark how to be more cautious with displaying his cash. If Mark needs help with a task like hanging a picture, Dan is there, too. Mark is pretty independent and able at this point and doesn’t need any help keeping his house clean. Mark appreciates the support Dan provides, and says, “Dan’s one of the best!”

Striving for balance with support and independence, once Dan is finished helping Mark with the cooking process, he lets Mark have his space to eat and clean up independently.   

Adelante’s Independent Living team helps with bigger projects, too. Recently Mark decided to tackle a large decluttering project over the course of several weeks, and Dan was there to support the efforts.

Adelante also supports Mark through his work at Adelante Document Destruction, a job which helps him pay for his home. When you ask Mark what he likes about his job, he will quickly tell you “about everything.” Mark has improved his work skills to become a leader among his peers at Document Destruction Services. Mark’s supervisor, Andy Hernandez says, “Mark is diligent in his work and very conscientious. If he’s working the box baler, and he sees something is off or sees it needs maintenance, he tells me immediately.”  Mark is a productive worker, with an excellent safety record. Mark shreds documents on a huge industrial shredder and even performs maintenance on the shredding machine with staff help. When asked if he feels liked and valued at work, Mark exclaims “Oh yeah!”

Mark is in the foreground on the right. He is eagerly inspecting the machine with Elisia, who is in the center looking down on machine.
Mark helps Elisia inspect the shredding machine.

Elisia Bustos, a team member at Adelante Document Destruction, eagerly tells about helping Mark and his co-workers with disabilities with whatever assistance they need to succeed. “I make sure to support him in whatever he needs. We are hired to support our associates. He’s my job.” “We work with Mark and our associates to clear any roadblocks to their success.” Hernandez added.

When asked about why he likes going to work at Document Destruction Services, Mark says, “I enjoy earning a paycheck and working on the shredders. It is nice to work in an environment where I can socialize with my peers and have fun while I work.” Also, Mark enjoys working because he likes to be productive and doesn’t like to be bored at home.

But, Mark rarely sits still even when he’s not at work. Mark and his brother have undertaken several remodeling projects on his home. Also, with Adelante’s help, Mark is fulfilling his dreams of traveling and exploring the world. Last year, Dan from Adelante’s Independent Living team traveled with Mark to Colorado, and the year before that, they visited the Grand Canyon. With Adelante by his side, the sky is the limit for Mark, and his dreams are only getting bigger.

If you or someone you know would like Adelante’s support in living independently, please email ExplorePrograms@goadelante.org or call (505) 341-2000.

If you need your old tax documents or other records shredded or know of a business that needs ongoing shredding or scanning services, visit www.AdelanteEnterprises.com to learn more. You’ll be supporting good jobs for people with disabilities including Mark.

Please share this information with your colleagues, friends, and family who may also benefit.