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August 15, 1986 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-08-15

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he din of the Sunday break-
fast crowd at Vassili's Family Dining
hushes noticeably when they come
through the door. The tiny old
woman leads the way. Behind her –
clumsy, noisy, beaming – come the
five retarded men and their atten-
dant. The woman, functionally blind,
does not see the stares of the other
guests – she feels them. "I feel sorry
for people who stare," she has said. "I
want them to know that we are bet-
ter, that we are special."

Volunteer Faye Sills

0-1- flE

With a sparkle, Faye Sills
cares for the residents
of ten Haverim Homes
for the retarded


■ 1111110


Special to The Jewish News


Friday, August 15, 1986


For the woman, 77-year-old
Faye Sills of Oak Park, breakfast at
Vassili's makes up a small part of a
large job. A volunteer friend and aid
to retarded people, Sills holds a job
that has spanned 30 years of hard
work without time clocks and
weekly pay checks. Yet the rewards
of working with the "children" (a
label Sills applies to adults with a
child's mentality despite the correc-
tion of supervisors)replace money in
value. And Sills, the recent winner
of the Jewish Association for Re-
tarded Citizens' "Volunteer of the
Year Award," says she could spend
weeks discussing her lifetime's
worth of "wealth."
"I wanted to do something for
someone else. Now this is my life.
This means more to me than any-
thing in the world. If I can help just
one of these children, I feel that I
did everything that my heart wants
me to do."
Sills traces the root of her inter-
est in the retarded back to her
childhood, where — from her home
in Poland, to New Jersey, to Detroit
— she fondly gathered up groups
younger than herself to play. Quite
simply, Sills has always enjoyed the
company of children. She continued
this concern for children's welfare by
taking carloads of clothing with her
late husband, Philip, to Lapeer State
Home over 30 years ago. But it was
about that same time when deter-
iorating retinas caused her vision to
fail. Eager to stay productive by
working with her hands, she crafted
over 500 yarn dolls, dolls that be-
came gifts for patients at a rehabili-
tation center at Fort Custer. So
began a ceaseless chain of giving to
the retarded.
"I'd rather work with those who
are handicapped or retarded than
normal children. They give you the
love right back when you teach
them. All they've got to do is look at
you and say one word. They give you
a different kind of love than a nor-
mal child. To me they're the best in
the world."
Though her love and desire to
help have brought Sills from Fort
Custer to the Sister Kenny Founda-
tion to — most recently — JARC's
Haverim group homes, the bulk of
her time and experience came at
Plymouth State Home. Sills, accom-
panied by her husband when he did
not have to work, aided the staff
when PSH opened a new building for
the retarded in the early 1960s. She
remembers the surprise of building

superintendent Dr. Robert Jaslow
when he realized that the man set-
ting up beds and the woman chang-
ing diapers were lovingly enthusias-
tic, yet unpaid. While Sills' dedica-
tion never waned, her proficiency in
working with retarded children and
adults made her an asset to the staff
and a friend to the residents.
Trained in the basic elements of
physical therapy by a professional at
Plymouth, she began to fully realize
the improvements that caring
therapy and constant attention can
make in the lives of the retarded.
"It's making a difference if you
stand in a room and work with a
child and then, all of a sudden, you
see a little child standing against
the wall who never, never got up
from the wheelchair. And she gets
up and stands up against the wall
and yells: 'Mrs. Sills, Mrs. Sills, look
— look — look!' and is yelling like
anything, 'I'm standing, I'm stand-
ing, I'm finally standing alone!' "
Jerry Provencal, director of the
Macomb-Oakland Regional Center
for the handicapped and retarded,
first met Mrs. Sills when he was a
social worker at Plymouth. He re-
members being "struck by this ex-
traordinary woman," who worked as
long and hard as the staff but "did it
with a zest, vitality, and affection
sometimes lacking in those receiving
money. She obviously cared about
the people; she was like a flower on
the moon," he says. Indeed, the
hours and years that Sills worked
without financial gain often surprise
those know her story: after all, it
wasn't as though her husband was
wealthy. Yet Sills admits refusing
payment at Plymouth, explaining
briefly that she wanted the freedom
to do as she pleased to benefit her
"Besides, even as a kid I'd never
take anything from someone else.
My brother and I were the ones that
sold the most Liberty Bonds in New
Jersey and New York. It must have
been born in me. But never would I
take for myself. You see, I'm very
proud. Even when times were bad I
wouldn't take help from .no one. The
only time I'll take — and then I'll
take anything — is if they give it to
me for the kids. Then I'll take and
take and take."
Unfortunately, as Sills remarks
almost bitterly, it is no longer a
matter of "taking" but of struggling
to find the dollars that automaticlly
translate into gifts or treats or par-
ties for her "kids." Though she has
managed to present such gifts to the
60 residents of the ten Haverim
Homes on a monthly basis, according
to JARC's Executive Director Joyce
Keller, the lack of money has turned
Sills' dream of owning a group home
into a fading hope. But she con-
tinues to sell her handmade pot hol-
ders, baby clothes and mittens and
continues to search for inexpensive
breakfast specials at area restau- -
rants. For since she envisioned and
began the practice with her husband

Continued on Page 58

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