The saying a "dog is man's best friend" fits appropriately to Russell Woods and his dog Emma.
It is Woods' responsibility to care for Emma, and both of them will always have a home with Mosaic.
Mosaic in South Central Iowa partners with people with intellectual disabilities to create a meaningful life in a caring community and giving a voice to their needs.
"Russell's story illustrates that when given the opportunity to voice your dreams and goals, people like Russell can become active in our communities and enjoy a life of possibilities," said Karen Irwin, community relations manager for Mosaic.
When he was younger, Woods could often be seen walking the streets around town with a bag picking up pop cans. He would hide behind trees or poles and pretend to be directing people. Children would often throw rocks at him and make fun of him because of the way he looked and talked.
Woods lived with his mother his entire life, and it was his mother who sent him out to collect pop cans. It is thought that the money from these cans was used to pay for the family's basic needs.
Woods was in his mid-50s when his mother suddenly died. Because he had nowhere else to go, Woods was literally dropped off at Mosaic's door with nothing but the clothes on his back after his mother died.
At first, Woods stayed in a small room at a home with other individual where Mosaic provided services. Later, Woods moved into a place with a couple other men and his bedroom was in the basement. It was quickly discovered Woods didn't like the basement because he was afraid of the dark.
As Mosaic continued to support Woods in learning life skills, he was given a choice of living conditions and roommates.
Mosaic also gave him a choice of how he would spend his time, something that he did not have before, as it seemed most of his time was spent walking around looking for pop cans.
As supports were set up for Woods at Mosaic, the goal was to make his routine as normal as possible.
When asked if he would like to take walks uptown Woods adamantly said, “No,” as he apparently associated walking with having to pick up pop cans – something he no longer has to do.
Through Mosaic, Woods has been given the opportunity to learn about his rights concerning his services, and he has been able to make many of his own decisions.
Woods now lives in a townhouse with a roommate and his dog Emma.
Mosaic helped connect Woods with volunteering opportunities at Meals on Wheels and at the animal shelter. It was while helping at the shelter that Woods expressed his desire to have a dog of his own.
Mosaic staff helped him select a pet that would be suited to his lifestyle.
While every word Woods says may not be clear, what is clear is how often he laughs, and makes other people laugh with him.
Woods will often talk about Emma sleeping on his bed or licking his face. He also talks about the time Emma ran away and was found at the animal shelter, or "pet jail," as he calls it.
It's apparent that Emma is now the most important thing in his life.
Woods is just one example of many people whose lives have been changed by Mosaic.
Mosaic in South Central Iowa began providing services in 1985 with day services and vocational training in Osceola. Services have expanded to provide individualized supports for people with intellectual disabilities, brain injuries and mental illness.
Mosaic serves the communities of Osceola and Chariton by providing services and supports to more than 90 people.
Residential supports provided by Mosaic include assisted-residential services at two group homes located in Osceola, supported community living services for individuals living in their own home or apartment and in host homes where individuals live in a family-like setting.
Mosaic's day services program provides individuals a variety of daily activities including vocational training, supported employment and community connections. Mosaic has helped 10 people obtain jobs in the local communities at places such as Hy-Vee and McDonald's.
Another foothold Mosaic has in the community is Expressions by Mosaic gift and coffee shop and South Central Iowa Redemption Center. Individuals who spend their days at this facility help make items for the gift shop, provide document destruction services, grind labels and package Mosaic's private label premium coffee, Tessera, and work in the redemption center.
However, it's the interactions with Mosaic volunteers and people in the community that is valued most by the individuals at Mosaic.
"We have a number of individuals who would love to become more involved in community life either through volunteering or by connecting with other people in the community," Irwin said. “We would love to have more volunteers to help us make connections for both work and volunteer activities for the individuals we support so they can feel like contributing members of society."