Learn How we Helped a Young Man with Intellectual Disabilities Thrive

With the help of Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, Clay, born with special needs and intellectual disabilities, has thrived living independently and finding a job at a hotel. Listen to his remarkable story as told lovingly by his brother Blair.

Video Transcript

Good Afternoon. My name is Blair Monroe. Clay is my little brother.

I’ve witnessed what I consider two miracles in my life. One is Lasik surgery that I had. I couldn’t believe that I could actually see without my thick glasses and contacts.

The second miracle, is what Volunteers of America has done for my brother Clay. Today, I would like to tell you his story because I am SO proud of him.

Clay was born prematurely and weighed 3 pounds 2 ounces. You could hold him in the palms of your hands.The doctors said Clay would be blind, wouldn’t walk, wouldn’t read, write or talk. But our mom was convinced he would do everything he would set his mind to. Clay had someone who believed in him and he defied the odds.

My mom enrolled Clay in a Special Ed Kindergarten class when he was 7 years old.The doctors said Clay would never learn to ride a bike. One afternoon my older siblings and I were riding bikes. My mom pulled up in the driveway and there was Clay peddling as fast as his legs could go following us on his bike. Clay was relentless.

He eventually learned how to read and write. As Clay got older he learned to wash his clothes, clean his room. He went on to High School and at the age of 20 he received his high school “certificate.”

My parents then said…now what? They devoted their lives to Clay, making sure Clay lived a normal life despite his challenges. But Clay was now in his 20s with no friends and no place to go during the day. My parents knew they had to find something for Clay, some type of support, companionship. They just weren’t sure what. Eventually, someone told mom about Volunteers of America. She immediately went to the office to tell them about Clay.

Within just a few days, a Direct Support Professional with Volunteers of America showed up at our door. His name was Todd. And he was Clay’s first experience with this wonderful organization. Todd asked Mom if he and Clay could visit for a while in Clay’s room. After visiting, they went back to my mom and Clay was smiling from ear to ear. Todd announced that he and Clay were going to go apartment hunting for Clay! I thought my mom was going to have a heart attack.

But as Todd explained…Clay was self-sufficient … he cleans, washes his clothes, he’s smart … he can read and take direction. With our support Todd said, Clay can live independently! They soon found an apartment and Todd would spend the day with Clay. But as soon as Todd would leave, my mom would go and sit in the apartment until late evening just to make sure Clay was ok. Then, my mom and dad would sit out in the car every night until Clay’s bedroom light went out. It was so hard letting go of our precious Clay. For all of us.

One day Clay was in his apartment….he called and was so excited to tell my mom he learned, with Todd’s help, how to ride the city bus! He would take the Veterans Boulevard bus he said, and he could go anywhere in the city! Uptown, downtown, Kenner! Well, every day Clay would be on a bus and there right behind the bus would be my mom and dad following in the car.

Not long after Clay learned how to ride the bus, Volunteers of America staff met with my mom and let her know that they thought Clay was ready to get a job. “A job my mother asked?” Clay soon got his first job at a major hotel downtown distributing linens. He was SO proud. And Clay was an excellent employee. He was thriving and he was so happy!

And then, Elsa entered our lives. Our wonderful Elsa. That was 20 years ago. We ALL love Elsa. She is family. And Clay and Elsa are best friends. She loves him. And Clay loves her dearly. We are all so blessed. When Jim LeBlanc talks about serving “one” person at a time, it’s so much more than that. Volunteers of America serves one person at a time, but they do it with love. A LOT of love. And Clay’s story is no exception.

I love my little brother Clay. And if you got to know him, you would love him too. He NEVER met a stranger. Once we were at a Saints game and a man sitting next to us says to Clay “I know you!” I looked at Clay and Clay just shrugged his shoulders. It was the bus driver on Veterans Boulevard!

I don’t know what Clay’s life would be like today if it weren’t for Volunteers of America. I don’t even like to think about it. Clay had so much potential and Volunteers of America made sure he reached his fullest potential. That’s what YOU do. I’m so proud of Clay. He has taught me so much more than I’ve taught him. I love you little man!

On behalf of my family, who are all here today, I would like to say Thank You to Volunteers of America. We are not only indebted to Volunteers of America for where Clay is TODAY, but for the peace we have in our hearts. Clay doesn’t need us to survive. We know that when we are all gone, Clay will be just fine.

And without further ado … I would like to introduce to you our rock … the glue that holds our family together … my little brother Clay.

Ladies and Gentleman, my brother Clay!

Thank you and God bless!