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A Heart for Helping Others

Dennis Lackey first noticed the ad in his local Penny Saver while enjoying his breakfast cup of joe.  At first, he skipped past the employment page, but he found himself wandering back again, like it was pulling at him.  After working as a construction contractor for thirty years, he was only too ready to kick back and not answer to an alarm clock at five o’clock every morning.  He soon realized that he needed to keep busy, however.  Retirement turned out to be anything but.

Dennis found a job as a part-time bus driver for the county mental health department transporting clients, and it awakened in him a goal from when he was much younger, a desire to help others and give back to his community.  He never imagined it would end up changing his life.

It’s because of his own experience with a learning disability that Dennis has a heart for helping others.  He recalls a teacher who helped him overcome his challenges in school, nurturing his strength in math and helping him enjoy school and succeed. When he saw the Penny Saver ad with the header, “Become a Mentor host home provider to an Adult with Disabilities,” he realized this was his chance to give back.

After Dennis' first call to California MENTOR’s Family Home Agency office, he decided to apply to become a Mentor.  Three months later, after our comprehensive screening and matching process, which considers the interests, skills and personalities of individuals and Mentors in order to create that “perfect match,” a client named Mark moved into Dennis’ home.  Dennis and Mark, a man with a strong handshake and a gentle demeanor, quickly bonded like two brothers, Dennis the big brother and Mark the younger one.  

In December of 2013, they rented an RV and drove from Fresno to Anaheim.  They found an RV park adjacent to Disneyland and spent three fun-filled days at the park and one at Six Flags, riding the roller coasters and screaming their lungs out.

Before Mark entered his life, Dennis says he didn’t have much to keep him active and often found himself watching TV. “I used to spend a lot of time looking between my feet,” he says.  These days, Dennis is feeling the positive effects of being active and helping others.  His doctor asked him what had caused such an improvement in his mental, emotional and physical health.  Dennis told him, “I am a Mentor now!”

Dennis is the first to tell you that he gets just as much or more out of being a Mentor as Mark does in having a real family home to live in instead of a group home.  He says, “I feel I have completed the circle in life with being a Mentor.  I’ve finally found what I was meant to do.”

When asked by family and friends what it has meant to open his home and life to Mark, he has a ready answer. “Helping others helps you!”