Jodi helps Amanda Herrigfeld arrange a bouquet

Farm work lesson for woman with disability

by KRISTINE ELLIS

Jodi Hines' rare insight

Jodi Hines’ experience as a client gives her rare insight for helping others with chores and personal grooming.

Jodi Hines was just a teenager when she got a glimpse of what her future work would be. Taking part in a special education class in Portland, Ore., Hines was impressed with how her teachers helped the students.

“It was amazing to me what the teachers would do,” Hines said. “So I decided I wanted to work with people too. It warms my heart. They can help themselves, but I can help them along.”

Now 37 years old, Hines is a full-time client advocate at Farm in the Dell, in Helena, Mont. She cleans the residence, preps meals, assists clients with chores and personal grooming, helps in the vocational area, the tomato greenhouse and anywhere else she’s needed.

“I do whatever needs to be done to help out around here,” she said.

Her own developmental challenges help Hines empathize with the clients.

“I see what they go through every day, and it makes me feel closer to them. I understand where they are at,” Hines said.

Volunteer work opens new world

Hines started farm work as a volunteer. Though she was born in Idaho and grew up in Oregon, Hines often visited relatives in Helena. A few years ago, her grandmother suggested that Hines volunteer at the farm for something to do.

Jodi Hines helps Amanda Herrigfeld arrange a bouquet at West Mont Flower and Trading Co.

Jodi Hines helps Amanda Herrigfeld arrange a bouquet at West Mont Flower and Trading Co.

The experience was wonderful for Jodi as well as the clients and the staff at the farm. But the decision to start working there wasn’t easy — it meant that, for the first time in her life, Hines would not be living with her mother, Michelle.

“It was hard for my mom to let me go, but we talked about it a lot, and we all thought it was a good idea,” said Hines.

“It was difficult,” said Michelle Hines, who lives in Vancouver, Wash. “She was my right arm, the sunshine who brightened my day.”

That warm spirit is evident to anyone who meets Jodi.

“She’s always been the most lovable person I know,” her mom said. “People have always commented on how sweet she is and so willing to help others.”

Always up for the challenge

Hines has never let her developmental disability stand in her way.

For example, she had an impressive work history before starting at the farm. In addition to working for awhile at a fast food restaurant and a nursing home, she worked at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Portland for eight years. There she started as a dishwasher and moved up to food prep and inventory management.

“I don’t see myself as disabled,” she said. “I can do the things that anybody else can do. I can teach myself to go further than I think I can.”

In high school that meant taking a drama class and pottery. As she says, “I wasn’t great but I tried.”

With an assist from Jodi Hines (at left), Connie Weinrib pours detergent into a washing machine at West Mont’s Farm in the Dell outside of Helena, Mont.

With an assist from Jodi Hines (at left), Connie Weinrib pours detergent into a washing machine at West Mont’s Farm in the Dell outside of Helena, Mont.

Hines also took a year-long culinary arts program at Portland Community College after graduating from high school.

Hines is now pushing forward to get her first apartment and live on her own. Until then, she lives with an aunt and her dog, Bruiser, a chihuahua mix.

One of four siblings, Hines would love to have children of her own some day. She also wants to travel to Australia to celebrate her 40th birthday. In the meantime, working at the Farm brings her great joy.

“It is really cool to work with the clients and the managers. It’s easy for me, and I can make it fun for them,” she said, adding, “I’m not going to quit.”

That is reassuring for clients like Vikki, who said, “Jodi is very nice. She takes me out of the van and helps me a lot. She is a good girl.”

Freelance writer Kristine Ellis of Helena, Mont., is a frequent contributor to Apostrophe.

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