It’s been a decade since Jatanna Harden and her parents Linda Retelle and John (Johnny) Harden shared their story at the LCEC’s 2014 Harvest Celebration. In the video, Johnny shares, “Our family has lived in Wexford since 1976. Five of our six children were born in Wexford. For us, it’s home. It’s where our kids rode big wheels down the hill, and it’s also where we’re watching our grandkids growing up.”

Linda continues, “Any of you who have children know what it’s like to worry about their future. Are they going to be happy? What are their lives going to be like? When you have a child with special needs, that worry is on your mind all the time. Is there going to be a place Jatanna belongs? Where she can contribute? Where people know and care about her?”

Fast forward to today. Jatanna has been working at the Center for 15 years – longer than anyone else currently on staff. Back in the gym 10 years ago, after listing some of her tasks, Jatanna adds with a giggle, “I do everything.”

“I can’t tell you how much it means to us that Jatanna’s part of the Center,” Linda shares. “There are so many people around her who care about her. It means the world to us.” Returning to the mic, Johnny adds, “This is not just about Jatanna. It’s about you and me and a place where we can feel needed and where we can help others and that we can make a difference – and we all need that.”

Earlier this spring Cliff Wilford sat down with Jatanna, Linda, and Johnny, inviting them to reflect on the Center’s past, present, and future. “The Center came to us,” Johnny began. “It was started in the unit on the hill and then moved next to us and then moved to the townhouses. It wasn’t organized, but it was there. It functioned as a food pantry, rec center, hangout, drop-in, anything you wanted it to be.” “Also a church,” Linda added. “Our kids grew up in the Center, going on field trips, going swimming, etc. It’s provided activities and outlets for our children, and it’s always been there, and it’s always been a welcoming place.”

As the conversation turned to the future, Cliff prompted, “We would like to know what the community wants to see from the Center.”

Johnny, who played Santa at the Center for many years before hanging up his red suit for good in 2019, replied, “I can’t answer that. It’s a struggle. I like that. I’d like to see us continue to struggle. If we settle for what we have and forget who we were, if we don’t remember our history, then we can’t go forward.”

Linda, who served on the LCEC’s board for 9 years, suggested bringing back basic computer training classes, crockpot cooking workshops, nutrition sessions for diabetics, even a private space for community members using computers.

We aim to serve! Starting now, you can stop by the front desk, check out a laptop for use in the building, and get help finding a private spot to do your computer work.

With big thanks to the Retelle-Harden family for their leadership and dedication, and to Cliff Wilford for this insightful interview.