Walk into Joel Waitkevich’s room at his Mainstay house and you’ll quickly realize what he’s passionate about. It’s decorated with fire department patches, hydrants, and helmets. Joel has volunteered with the Norfolk Fire Department for the last 25 years. “Funny thing is they call me assistant captain,” said Joel.
Growing Up in Mainstay’s Supportive Housing
Now 37 years old, Joel has been a resident of one of Mainstay Supportive Housing’s homes in Norwood for about 10 years. Mainstay Supportive Housing is a non-profit that provides housing and home-based services for adults on the Autism Spectrum and with other developmental challenges. Mainstay’s supportive housing program operates homes in Norwood, Newton, Malden and Walpole, Massachusetts.
Joel’s parents say it’s a perfect fit for him. “We realized the support Joel needs means fully independent living will never be possible. Mainstay is the perfect option as he grows up,” said Mark Waitkevich, Joel’s dad.
“If it wasn’t for the Mainstay houses, I don’t know where Joel would be. If he was living with us, it wouldn’t allow him to be with peers and friends,” said Mark. “It’s allowed him to grow up and mature and work through issues. He’s learned about safety and boundaries.”
Building Stronger Relationships Through Boston’s Supportive Housing
These are skills that have not only helped Joel successfully live as an adult, but also grow as a volunteer. Joel’s volunteer work with the Norfolk Fire Department stems from interactions with the department at a young age. When he was a child, he suffered seizures and the family had to call for help several times to save his life.
Peter Petruchik is Norfolk’s Deputy Fire Chief and was on some of those early calls. He also knew Joel’s grandfather who was a police officer and volunteer firefighter with the department. Over the years, he and Joel have built a strong relationship.
“He is always welcome here and he pretty much has and wears a uniform, as we would, when he helps us out at the numerous community events we participate in throughout each year. Joel is always ready to help, and we truly appreciate his willingness. Joel is fun to be around and has an incredible understanding of how our department operates,” said Deputy Fire Chief Peter Petruchik.
“We love to talk to him about the calls we go on. He is a very polite young man who is always asking about our individual families.”
When he is not with his family or firehouse friends, Joel has a supportive friend group at his Mainstay home. Joel’s obvious enthusiasm has rubbed off on some of them who now have an interest in firefighting and trading firefighter patches.
“It’s an awesome place to be. I love it,” said Joel.
Learn more about our Mainstay community on our blog page. To learn more about Mainstay Supportive Housing options in Norwood, visit mainstayliving.org/supportive-housing/.