Nelson and Randy couldn’t seem to stop smiling as they sat in front of a cake with “Happy Birthday” spelled out in brightly-colored candles.
More than a birthday celebration for the two best friends and former Sargent House clients, the meeting was a reunion for the pair, who hadn’t hung out together since Randy, 24, transitioned from the program to live with a family in Ayer in November. Nelson, who recently turned 22, stayed at Sargent House until February, when he completed the program and moved in with a family in Haverhill.
“It’s nice to see each other,” Nelson said. “The first time I came here two years ago I met Randy. We’ve been friends a while. Randy always helped me.”
Sargent House serves young men ages 18 to 22 who are aging out of eligibility for services from the Department of Children and Families but won’t be able to receive services from the Departments of Mental Health or Developmental Services. Clients typically have a history of challenging behaviors due to trauma-based diagnoses, cognitive disabilities, or intellectual challenges.
When Nelson arrived at Sargent from a foster home, Randy took him under his wing, teaching him the rules like not bringing food into the bedrooms, keeping up with chores, being honest, and going to school or work. Randy also showed Nelson his favorite spots in Boston, including the main library in Copley Square and the South End branch.
During their time at Sargent, Randy and Nelson learned skills like managing money, making medical appointments and establish lasting relationships. Since moving to Haverhill, Nelson has started working at a farm that runs a therapeutic horseback riding program. Randy is looking for work.
The two say they’ll keep in touch even now that they don’t live under the same roof.
“He’s my friend,” Randy said of Nelson. “Sometimes we act like brothers.”
The party for Nelson and Randy – whose birthdays are within a week of each other — was definitely one of those times. They joked and argued playfully over which one was the most prolific Xbox champion, who can handle more hot sauce and who logged the most Sorry! victories.
There was one point they agreed on, though.
“We did a good job here,” Nelson said.
After lunch from the Cheesecake Factory and cake, Randy and Nelson were the guests of honor at a reception honoring donors to Community Resources for Justice at the offices of law firm Goulston & Storrs on the Boston waterfront.
Randy told the crowd that the staff at Sargent House gave him more than a home and coaching.
“I met people that cared about me at Sargent House,” he said. “I felt like I finally had a family.”