Every day, Jayme Greco walks into work and is greeted by the smiles and waves of individuals who love and appreciate her. These individuals are some of the kindest and most polite people in all of Beaufort County. They hold doors open, greet everyone they see, and can make even a stranger feel instantly welcome. They also all have one thing in common: they are "special needs" adults.
Jayme works for an organization known as P.E.P., or Programs for Exceptional People, that helps care for and teach life skills to adults with disabilities ranging from Autism to Down Syndrome. There are currently 45 members in the program from ages 21 to 80 years old.
Jayme serves as the Coordinator of Services and Programs at P.E.P., which includes planning and coordinating weekly and monthly activities for the members. Every week the members take classes such as cooking, exercise, music, art and many others. In addition, they are given the opportunity each month to pick four special activities to take part in, such as bowling, drive-in movies, and baseball games. P.E.P. also helps assist the members in getting jobs in the community, as well as teaching them to volunteer as often as possible. Of the 45 members, more than two-thirds of them are employed at places such as TJ Maxx, Carrabbas, Hilton Head Hospital and many more. "We try to get the members into the community as often as possible because it is so important for them to be accepted and to be an active part of society," Jayme said. "The lessons we are teaching them here are basic skills they can continue to work on throughout their lives."
Jayme's job also involves providing the members with daily goals and objectives. These can include tasks such as holding the door open for others, maintaining eye contact while talking with someone, or conquering a challenging exercise. "In the two years I have been here, I've really seen the members grow and start to come out of their shells. Many of them have learned to open up with their feelings by talking or writing me notes," Jayme said. "I am really big on teaching members to advocate for themselves. They are all adults who have choices and I love to see them go against the flow."
Another way the members learn is simply through the example of staff members, volunteers and other members of the community. "We have a really dedicated staff, and through them the members have learned dedication and kindness. When a staff member is gone they are always concerned and often call that person throughout the day to make sure he or she is doing ok. It is really like we are a P.E.P. family."
Several community members also greatly contribute to P.E.P. by offering support and entertainment. One example is Target the Band, who performs for the members weekly, and even made a Christmas album with the members and donated some of the proceeds back to the organization. Volunteers frequently contribute their time to helping maintain the P.E.P. facilities and assisting with member activities.
For two years Jayme has worked for P.E.P., moving up from a temporary volunteer to a full-time, permanent staff member. Her office is littered with pictures of some of the members and artwork they have created for her that show their love and gratitude for what she does. "This is the best job I have ever had. It's so easy for me to wake up every morning and come in knowing I'm going to be met with smiles and hugs," Jayme said. "All the members are so thankful and it reminds me to always be thankful for what I have. In today's society, the sky is the limit, and they are living proof that if you keep learning and trying you can do anything."
Moved from: Pennyslvania with husband two years ago
Also works: As a night manager at Truffles in the Shops at Sea Pines Center
Personal future goals: To see P.E.P. continue to grow as an organization and in community awareness, and to have kids of her own sometime in the near future
Life motto: "I'm all about living the simple life and always being thankful for what I have."
Programs for Exceptional People is located at 10 Oak Park Dr. Bldg. C-1. To get involved with the organization or for more information please call 843-681-8413.