“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
- Malala Tousafzai
Pamela Lancaster, ISS Off-Site Activity Coordinator
38 years ago, Pam was working in childcare when she was approached about the possibility of integrating a special needs boy into her day care classroom. Coming from humble beginnings and limited means herself, and armed with a belief that 'all people can learn', there was no question whether he belonged in her class. Over the next few years, she joined the Spindletop Center team, and began to find a unique passion for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Pam was certain that giving individuals the opportunity to experience integrating into their communities would lead to a high quality of life. "If you put a goldfish in a bowl, they are limited and may never grow. But, if you put them in a pond or ocean, there's no limit to what they can experience or accomplish," said Lancaster.
Pam began planning and bringing clients out into the community. They'd go to the movies, stores, restaurants and more which began to give each of them a sense of belonging and discovery about who they are. Many of them learned what style of clothing they like, if they like comedies or action movies and what types of food they prefer. These experiences also teach valuable life skills such as budget and money management, time management and the importance of socialization. Over time, Pam learned more and more about her clients, their interests and expanded her programs. "We started Coffee Talk, a program developed to improve socialization and normalization. We were supposed to just go on an outing to the coffee shop, hang out and talk. But when we got there, I noticed people on laptops, iPads and thought, hey, we can teach them how to use technology too!" And that she did. Pam rounded up enough donated iPads and on their next visit to the coffee shop they began teaching the clients how to use the internet and other social media platforms.
Pam plans more than 200 special events, programs and outings each year for her clients. They've travelled all over Southeast Texas, to Houston and beyond, ridden in parades, on trains and even formed a crafting group that decorates for events, called the Kraft Katz! Today, you can find her from Port Arthur to Silsbee and Jasper and every community in between, making sure her clients get to experience the best of everyday life.
While she's heard many times, Pam, you're amazing at what you do. You give our clients so much love. You give them opportunities no one else would, her response is always the same, "The clients give me purpose and a safe place. I feel called to be a voice for each of them. It's not me...I'm just the tool."
If you are inspired by Pam's career journey, click here to explore your own #MySpindletopStory