Smiles, that’s what it is about.

Living with a disability can be hard. Grief, stress and other factors can be difficult on families of a person with disability leading to depression, guilt and isolation. Without a good support system, families suffer alone, especially as the person with a disability ages.

The Gathering Place of the Big Bend has been working to reach people with disabilities and their families for several years. The fiercely independent West Texas culture seems to encourage isolation in families with disabilities. Many families here seem to feel the need to bear the burden alone. They have no need for “support groups”.

Last night, St. James Episcopal church, led by Ginger Hillery, blessed the community by once again reaching out to the disabled community and their families. Some of the parents were able to drop off their adult children so that both the parents and the adult children are able to have a night out alone. The adults with disabilities need to have a place where parents aren’t hovering, and the parents need a break from the 24 hour responsibility of parenting a person with a disability. There were many smiles and much laughter.

Joyce Holman Page, founder of the Gathering Place of the Big Bend is passionate about building a community of family and friends who can work together to provide outlets like this. She comments that if you want this kind of community, you have to go outside of Alpine to find it. She and her daughter travel annually to National conferences to experience this kind of support. Cheyenne, mother of two sons with autism recently experienced this kind of support on a cruise for families with autism. Sharing experiences with others who are dealing with disabilities is extremely encouraging. Planning events for people with disabilities that meet their needs brings smiles to the faces of those people who are usually forgotten.

Last year, some parents began working to build a Special Olympics team for people with intellectual disabilities. It has been slow, but there are now 6 athletes participating in a few sports. Special Olympics can be another part of the community that supports families and individuals with intellectual disabilities. Not only are the athletes involved in a healthy activity, but there is camaraderie and time to socialize with new friends. When the team is recognized by the local community such as being involved in parades, or written up in the newspaper, the athletes become part of the larger community as well. More smiles every time someone says Hey, I saw you in the paper! You are famous!

If you know of a family who has a person with a disability, please encourage them to get involved with the Gathering Place community. If you would like to become a part of the community that supports people with disabilities, please contact us or follow us on or call Joyce at 432-294-4028.

My Story

“Wait! Did you say rhino?” “No, I said…” I simply smile and chuckle, as this is an everyday, frequent occurrence. If God did not give me a sense of humor to handle the frustration that comes with being hard of hearing (HoH), then other emotions would tempt to overwhelm me. And rhino? I do not know how that one was heard in the middle of a finance conversation. Funny.

Born hard of hearing and visually impaired, challenges were always a part of life. From wearing giant hearing aides as a child, to patches over one eye to make the other eye see better (I am sure there was logic in the idea, but it did not work). As I moved on to high school, the whole handicap thing was embarrassing and I couldn’t hide these monstrous hearing aides and crossing eye very well with my curly hair anymore. So I simply stopped wearing the aides and started with the fashionably 80’s poofy hair. Alright! And it wasn’t too bad, until someone talked to me.

That is exactly where the world stops for a HoH person. It’s a zoom effect. They tune into your face, reading every expression and if they read lips, concentrating on your entire presence to simply understand and participate in this wondrous conversation with you. As we grow older, we adapt, and I did, without the hearing aides. So what if I missed a word here or there. Okay, there was that one time where most unfortunately, I completely misread this poor woman’s face and laughed when I thought she was laughing. She was actually sighing in reaction to her mother’s passing. Oh my goodness! I felt horrible. I did not hear or understand anything in the conversation that resembled someone passing.

Many problems started to surface. My family started noticing increasing incidents and my children started begging for dad to discipline them. Apparently, I did not hear what I thought I heard. Funny. I finally agreed to have my hearing tested again. And this was after not wearing hearing aides for many years. It was a shock to see and ‘hear’ the level of hearing loss I suffered in the years of not taking of myself properly. It was devasting to me.

Sure I was angry with God. I was angry with everyone, because it was not fair. Sadness flooded my heart and I just knew my life was awful. How terrible that I may not be able to hear my grandchildren someday. Or hear my darling husband say ‘I love you!’, when we are old and gray. Then a new harsh realization set in. What if I am deaf AND blind? It was too much to accept, so my eye visits became very regular and I remained stable in that area.

I learned of some resources available to the Deaf and HoH. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) help people like myself to acquire the things they need to be a part of the working community. It is a process that has helped me tremendously, as they were the reason I finally got hearing aides after so many years. And they have served me well for nearly four years and but yet again, I was burdened with news of more hearing loss.

But I have an awesome audiologist that has me very excited about the new technology he wants me to wear. These hearing aides may very well help me to hear sounds and words in songs I have not heard before. This is incredible! Let me add to that. There is actually a device that allows me to remote control the hearing aide focus. If we are talking in a crowded room and I need to hear just your voice, simply click a button. Excellent! I’m thinking Adam Sandler in the movie ‘Click’. Well, sort of. Yay!

And God? I am his number one fan. He forgave my anger and I now understand the beauty of why he made me the way I am.


GOT MY NEW HEARING AIDES TODAY!!!! and yes… I CAN hear incredibly better and more!! I talked to my dear friend on the phone and could actually hear her high pitch voice perfectly clear! I couldn’t help but cry, it is so amazing to hear high frequencies now.  Thank you Jesus!!!!!!! Thank you Jesus!!!!!!! Wait… there’s more:)

I was asked by ‘Good Morning West Texas’ channel 2, to do a news interview about my story and the Deaf Awareness week we are doing next week! !!!!! PRAISE GOD! More people can be reached and helped like I was/am:)) we will be on the news tomorrow morning (May 16). Whoop!!

Check out the news interview with Joyce and I.


Deaf Awareness Week

May 19-23, 2014 we are celebrating Deaf Awareness Week.  Our goal is to create awareness for people with hearing impairments.  We want to talk about communicating with a person with a hearing impairments and what help is available for people who have a hearing impairment.

Our schedule for the week will be:

Monday, May 19 from 6-8 pm will be an open house with refreshments and information available. At the Casner Building 301 W Holland in Alpine.

Tuesday, May 20 at 4pm will be storytime at the Alpine Library where Kristine will read a story in ASL Sign Language.

Wednesday, May 21, Rebecca Hernandez will be traveling from El Paso to visit us.  She is a deaf and hard of hearing specialist who has all kinds of new technology to help those with hearing loss.  She will be at the High School transition fair in the morning at Sulross University and the Casner Building at 1:00 for a workshop.  To contact Rebecca Hernandez of DARS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services… 915-328-8282

Thursday, May 22, we will be talking about how to communicate with the deaf and deaf etiquette.

We hope you will join us to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week!  for more information, contact

Learn about Independent Living!

First Town Hall Meeting at the Gathering Place will be held February 20, 2012!   Mack Marsh brief Bio from Texas Association Centers for Independent Living will be speaking to us about Independent Living! Town Hall Agenda – Alpine

TACIL is a membership organization committed to promoting dignity, equality, inclusion and independence for all Texans with disabilities.

The Gathering Place promotes Independent Living for all people with disabilities.  Come and hear from this leader in the Independent Living Movement.  What is the Independent Living philosophy?  How does it help people with disabilities?

For more information, call Joyce Holman Page 432-294-4028  Flyer: Special Edition1-12