Imagine for a moment you are a father or mother in a family with three boys, and that you have just received the exciting news that in a few months, you are going to be adding a baby girl. You are already thinking of how the family dynamics will change, who will be waking up for midnight feedings and diaper changes, and which set of grandparents you can count on to help. Now imagine your new baby girl being born with special needs.
This is precisely what happened to Lon Solomon when Jill was born. She shifted not only the dynamics of their family, but also those of McLean Bible Church, where Lon was the pastor. Members of the congregation began to see firsthand the additional strain Lon and his family faced in caring for Jill, and were moved with compassion to help them and other families facing similar struggles. Their plan was simple but bold: to open a facility offering overnight and weekend respite care. Jill’s House opened in 2010 to serve families in the Washington, DC area. Today, for every child attending, they have two more on the waiting list.
Cameron Doolittle, president and CEO of Jill’s House, explained that families with special needs children experience much higher rates of stress, divorce and suicide, and are less physically healthy than families with typical children. “The families never get a break. They can’t call family or friends in many cases or even a babysitter. If others are available, it is only for a few hours. Families need long breaks, at least overnight.” He continued: “Something magical happens when they go home and have a date, sleep on their own pillows, and don’t have to worry about monitoring seizures or a child slipping out of the house. They come back feeling refreshed—and for many, it is for the first time in years.”
When Jill’s House was looking for the right leader to give them a strong start, they approached Cameron Doolittle. He had a record of success in the corporate world as a business consultant and agreed, thinking he would stay about six months. However, he is still with them four years later. “I feel privileged to do the work we do and be a blessing to the families” he comments.
Doolittle knew the surest path to success with Jill’s House was to maintain a high level of excellence in all areas. This included not only in caring for the children, but also in all their communications with parents, donors and the public. They turned to DLA Editors & Proofers, a leading provider of editing and proofreading services, for their similar high standard of excellence. DLA Editors & Proofers, led by Editor in Chief David Lombardino, is unique in that they hire only editors with extensive experience and do not outsource any of their work to freelancers. “In the seven years I worked as an editor and proofreader for the U.N., I learned that the best editing and proofreading can be done only by a team of in-house professionals dedicated not simply to editing and proofreading, but to caring about how our work affects the clients on the other side of the documents. When any of us edits a document for Jill’s House, we get excited to be able to help, at least in a small way, in the great work they are doing.”
In addition to their full-time facilities, Jill’s House rents space for weekend camps in Virginia, California, Colorado and Texas and is looking to expand across the country. Current destinations they are exploring are in Seattle, Phoenix, Kansas City and Birmingham, with a vision to serve in 20 locations by 2020. Their ultimate dream is for every family with a special needs child to have access to respite for overnight and weekend care and a church to support them.
Families pay part of the cost of their children’s care, but funding from outside sources supplements it, with 100% of contributions going to the direct costs of child care. Corporate sponsorships and fundraisers like the annual black-tie gala, A Celebration of Special Children and the Team Jill’s House Marine Corps Marathon and 10K are a portion of the support. Individual donations, such as through their Sponsor-a-Child-for-a-Night program, are just as important, and many come from parents who do not have children with special needs.
To learn more about becoming a sponsor of Jill’s House, or joining them as a volunteer, visit JillsHouse.org. For more information about the editing and proofreading services provided by DLA Editors & Proofers, visit them on the web at DLAEditors.com.