Life Styler Karla is ready to live large—and fully in charge.
After eleven years of having a legal custodian, Karla has now been officially designated her very own guardian. This means she can now make her own personal, medical, and legal decisions; decisions as basic as where she lives, where she travels, even what events she attends.
Perhaps even more remarkable is the amount of progress Karla has made in achieving this milestone. After being deemed unable to care for herself, and then institutionalized for seven of the past eleven years, Karla came to Life Styles in 2017. Vikki McKillip, Karla’s case manager at Life Styles—who worked with her years before either of them moved to Life Styles—was concerned enough to warn management ‘she may be a handful.’ Today, Vikki says, “I could not have been more wrong. The woman I know today is nothing like the one I knew all those years ago! She is a kind and gentle spirit.” Vikki adds, “Don’t get me wrong—she still has a little sass. But it’s a good sass.”
Through four years of quarterly meetings with her Life Styles support staff and the legal custodians, Karla consistently and increasingly showed her stuff. For instance, she proved herself a valued employee at Briar Rose Bakery in Farmington, working diligently and independently for three years (until being laid off when Covid hit). “Everyone there loved her,” Vikki recalls.
Karla has also been a star student in the Life Styles’ College For Living, proving herself an accomplished artist, an eager pupil, and a role model and surrogate ‘big sister’ to her peers. Karla was named to the Life Styles Client Leadership team, too: This select group plans and helps supervise client activities like biking, camping, and floating trips; softball practices; and a Sports Week event. Karla is also the doting owner of a shelter dog named DeDe, manages her own appointments with doctors and counselors, and has become a capable and responsible advocate for herself.
“I can still recall the day I drove down to the Booneville Human Development Center to bring Karla to Life Styles,” remembers John Newman, executive director of Life Styles. “I’ve seen firsthand the incredible strides she’s made to warrant this distinction—made even more remarkable by the relatively short period of time in which they’ve occurred.” He continues, “Her support staff has been a pivotal part of this transformation, and I commend them for their key role in championing her independence and helping to make this success story possible.”
Even in light of Karla’s status change, Life Styles and that same dedicated support staff will still have her back—filling her staffing needs (limited as they may be), providing financial support as her payee, and ensuring her housing, SNAP, Medicaid, and any other needs are met. Perhaps equally important, Karla can rely on Life Styles to continue to encourage her independence while providing indispensable emotional support. “I’m loved—what can I say?,” affirms Karla.
As for her new legal status, Karla says “I’m very excited—now I get to be my own guardian and make my own decisions, which I’ve wanted forever.” But she’s also taking this change very seriously. “Even though I’m not the same person I used to be, I’m a little bit anxious to start this journey of being truly independent.”
From our vantage point here at Life Styles, we have every confidence Karla will excel in her new role, as illustrated by her actions on a recent Life Styles kayaking trip to Lake Wilson. Despite a lifelong fear of water, Karla simply picked up an oar, hopped in a kayak, and started paddling. “I just kept telling myself, ‘You got this,’” she recalls. “I was going faster than the wind!” [watch this video to see for yourself]. In her enthusiasm, she ended up farther out than she planned, but her peers and Life Styles staff were on-hand to help her back to shore.
Karla explains, “It was time to just lose my fear.”
All of us here are confident she’ll apply that same courageous spirit to this next chapter of her remarkable story.
Julie Preddy is mom to Life Styler Lauren—Lar for short—who lives in her own duplex on cheery Linda Jo Court, near our Stensgaard Center headquarters. Every other weekend Lauren hangs out with mom, and sees plenty of brother Adam, who is currently working on his master’s degree at the University of Arkansas.
Julie herself is a graduate of the U of A, and now serves as Assistant Director of Communications and Events for the university’s Division of Economic Development, a vital resource for proprietors looking to grow their business, locate talent, and collaborate on research. Julie’s passion for improving our community began well before taking on her current role: She’s served on multiple nonprofit boards and committees focused on education and advocacy throughout NWA in the course of her 30-year career.
We count ourselves especially lucky to be a beneficiary of Julie’s enthusiasm and generosity. Julie always has her finger on the pulse of our organization and is relentlessly on call to volunteer her time, support our fundraising campaigns, drop off donations, and chat with us on social media.
While Julie is devoted to doing good, this philanthropist knows how to have a good time, too :) She's a big fan of the Big Easy, taking in Jazzfest and Mardi Gras when she gets the chance. And she loves floating the Buffalo River and boating on Beaver Lake, too.
Wherever she goes and whatever she does, Julie brings her trademark dedication and zeal to bear. Believe us when we say we couldn't be happier to have this devoted dynamo in our corner.
So much excitement, creativity, and enthusiasm have transpired in the Hannah & Greg Lee Assembly Hall, at the heart of the Life Styles Stensgaard Center. The 2,500-square-foot space, equipped with a performing arts stage, has hosted Talent Fests, College For Living parties, and plenty of good-hearted lunchtime banter. Pre-vaccine, the space served as a socially-distanced classroom—as well as the filming site of our virtual 2021 Celebration of Possibilities luncheon.
Hannah and Greg, the hall’s namesakes, are lifelong Fayetteville residents, University of Arkansas grads, and relentless philanthropists who—among the many important causes they support—have backed Life Styles and its all-inclusive mission for decades. Until just weeks ago, Hannah held the pivotal role of Executive Committee Board Member, and she's been on the Life Styles board of directors for many, many years. And to the delight of our clients, the Lee’s frequently donate admission tickets to performances and events around town.
It seems appropriate that the Hannah & Greg Lee Assembly Hall serves as the center of Life Styles community life, because from the start this pair has proved central to the success of our entire organization.
Life Styles enthusiastically supports individuals with disabilities in reaching their full potential as contributing members of the community.
We are always grateful for donations in support of our mission: