Spotlight Series: The Ash Brothers
This month we interviewed Joe Rocko, an Arkansas Support Network division manager, about the Ash Brothers, three men who have been associated with ASN since 1998. We serve people throughout their lifespan, and these brothers’ independence is a powerful example of what people can do when given access to opportunities. Bill, LJ, and Vennis Ash began their relationship with ASN in 1998 after leaving the Booneville Human Development Center.
How did LJ, Bill, and Vennis Ash first get involved in with ASN?
The brothers first came to ASN in 1998. Like quite a few of the individuals we now serve today, they came from an institutional setting in Booneville, Arkansas. When Walter Ash, the brothers’ father, passed away, their mother Betty came to Keith Vire (ASN CEO), asking for help in relocating her sons from Boonville to her home in Rogers.
James Wilks, now the Director of Community Living Services, offered the brothers their first relationship with ASN staff. No one really knew what to expect at first. James was tasked with getting the guys ready for work and onto the morning bus. Bill and LJ, the oldest brothers, were a bit resistant at first; however, after quite a few prompts and assistance, they would get on the bus. Vennis, the youngest brother, however, refused all attempts to get him to ride the bus. He much preferred having a car ride to work every day. After the first few days of transporting Vennis, and working with his brothers, everything just seemed to fall in place.
What do you wish other people knew about ASN or our Community Living Services program?
If the Ash brothers were to have remained in the Boonville HDC they would not be as happy, nor would they be as involved in the community as they are today. Every week the Ash Brothers all meet together for lunch at a local church or restaurant. They visit their mom at the local Rogers nursing home. They go to local thrift stores and garage sales. During the holidays they all get together and help cook the holiday meal and eat together. After the meal they open up their gifts together. On birthdays they all come together for meals and festivities. I firmly believe that if it were not for ASN, the brothers would never see their mom in the nursing home; a holiday or birthday wouldn’t differentiate itself from any other day; and they would not be as active in the community as they are today.
What are the biggest differences between the three brothers?
LJ is the oldest and takes on the role of a protector. Bill, the middle child, likes to keep everyone in line. Vennis, the youngest, is the rebel of the group. While all three men are outgoing, caring, and have a fondness for overalls, LJ and Bill are much closer in age and since childhood have always shared a bedroom. This is still true today. In their two bedroom home of the past six years they have preferred to stay in the same bedroom. They even have similar tastes in activities and hobbies. If you see them out in the community, they are often dressed alike, matching hats and all! Vennis, on the other hand, lives a much faster-paced lifestyle. He lives on his own and likes to be able to go in his room and relax after a busy day. Vennis has a passion for bowling and wrestling that are unmatched. He carries around several pocket combs, his cool sunglasses of varying colors, and his keychain has more things dangling from it than ASN’s Director of Operations. All three men, while unique, seem to fit together just perfectly.
What is unique about having siblings in the program?
It may be hard to believe but having siblings in the same program isn’t really that unique. We serve many siblings. We also have a handful of individuals that currently have a sibling on the Medicaid Waiver waiting list. While we don’t serve these individuals directly via staffing, they do receive support from ASN in other ways like our holiday baskets, holiday gifts, and support from our Family Support Program.