Nonprofit hires new manager for North Fort Myers housing
Laurie Shears has joined the local LARC organization as the new, community residential manager for its North Fort Myers house.
LARC Inc. is a local nonprofit organization with group homes in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral, and local offices that provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
“Since 1954, our mission is to promote and provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to live and work in their own communities,” said Lisa Cronin Miller, director of community relations.
Shears recently started working for the organization, but has volunteered for it and similar organizations for the last 15 years.
“When I was in high school I volunteered at Sunland, which turned into Gulfcoast Center, for disabled individuals,” she said. “In high school we put on dances for them.”
It was a great and interesting experience, Shears said.
“A lot of them were actually older than me in high school,” she said. “They had a lot of fun. We brought in high school bands, little three- and four-piece groups, and all enjoyed them.”
Shears continued working with and for developmentally disabled individuals in the community. She was a Girl Scout leader for several years.
“My Girl Scout troop volunteered a lot at large,” Shears said. “They helped paint group homes and the LARC campus building.”
Shears has family members who are developmentally disabled.
“I also got involved because my husband retired from LARC,” she said. “I helped put on some of the picnics and parties, and helped with repair work at homes and the floats that were in the Edison Festival of Light Parade.”
Shears said she has enjoyed every project over the years.
Today, she manages the local residence that four adult men and two adult women call home. Duties include day-to-day living skills.
“They need help with medication, and we go places,” Shears said. “We do everything a typical American family does. We eat dinner together, play together.”
Her schedule is evenings and weekends with the residents, most of which work during the day.
“I couldn’t tell you enough wonderful things about them,” Shears said. “They are so sweet, kind and considerate of each other. They all consider themselves family.”
She has lived in North Fort Myers her entire life.
“I graduated from North Fort Myers High,” Shears said.
She worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for 30 years before taking on her position at LARC.
“It differs because this is so much more rewarding,” Shears said. “You know you are helping someone. And every day, these residents are so happy. You can not come to this job in a bad mood.”
There are a lot of activities. A favorite for all?
“We go bowling every Thursday at All Star Lanes,” she said. “We also play Wii bowling, they listen to music, we dance, go for walks in the neighborhood, again the typical American family.”
Shears added they are not long trips out, but just like every other family trip out.
She said many others help to improve the quality of life at the group homes.
“We have college kids coming here now, actually teachers who have gone back to college and come every Saturday, for projects with the residents,” Shears said. “They play music, do art, help with reading and writing and other projects. They get a lot of one-on-one.”
“Laurie is doing and incredible job,” Miller said.