Tony Wilburn, 45, likes bluegrass music, University of Kentucky basketball, Diet Pepsi, joking about giving other people sardines (which he hates), and reading the Handyman magazine cover to cover. He also likes Mustangs. "Woo-hoo!" he shouts when he spots one on the road.
The staff at D&S Community Services Center in Morehead assists Tony throughout his daily life. His severe Type 2 diabetes requires constant monitoring. His hands often shake when he reaches for a cleaning cloth or tries to put his glasses back on. He has some cognitive challenges and a speech impediment, making communication difficult with those unaccustomed to understanding him. "Tony-speak" is what David Henderson, a direct support professional at D&S, calls it. "He often drops the first or last syllable, but if you understand the context, with time, you can understand him," David says.
Tony lives with a roommate and house managers on rotation from D&S. His only family is his brother, who sometimes visits.
Wilburn has been at the center for four years, working for three. "I remember the day he came here," says LeeAnn Creech, executive director of D&S. "Before he came, I don't think his life was very full. He didn't have a lot of people who cared about him." LeeAnn says the staff enjoys seeing Tony grow.
Tony's best friends? "All the staff," he says.
Despite a medical condition that may prevent others from seeking work, Tony works part-time, cleaning tables and drink stations at Morehead State University's Rocky Adkins cafeteria. He works steadily, never resting or sitting down. Tony takes pride in his job and seldom misses his 3 to 9 p.m. shift. "I can't wait until Monday," he says on Fridays.
"He's one of us," says Patty Thacker, Tony's supervisor. "We've got him spoiled!"
Through grants D&S staff worked on for several months, Tony received a service dog named Bertram who will help monitor his sugar levels. Tony bought play ropes and chew toys for Bertram, in anticipation of the dog's arrival. When Bertram made an unannounced appearance in Morehead before going to New York for training, Tony was ecstatic. He gave D&S staff Crystal Skeens a thank-you card he'd been carrying around in his bag.
"This is why we do this," David says. "Moments like this--this makes it worth all that we go through in our jobs."