LIBERTY — Julie Turley is well into her 37th year with Life Unlimited, formerly Immacolata Manor, and is not slowing down.
“It’s been 37 years, but I have been in a few different positions so that has been nice,” she explained. “It’s gone by fast in many regards. When I interview people, I tell them that it’s not the same thing over and over so if you like variety, we probably have a place for you.”
Turley’s service began after a visit to Manor Thrift Store to look for curtains. At the counter, she noticed a newsletter for Immacolata Manor that detailed the organization's work with women who had intellectual and developmental disabilities.
When Julie first started in 1984, the large house on Manor Way looked a lot different than it does today. The meeting room was a chapel, offices were bedrooms, Benedictine nuns lived on the third floor and 16 women with disabilities lived on the second. Julie applied as a cook, but was hired as the daytime direct care worker for all 16 women.
“I took the ladies for appointments,” she said. “Sister Alice Lordeman was my mentor.”
Turley said in those early days, she was “extremely shy.”
“I have become much more assertive,” she said. “I am willing to try just about anything to help the staff and those we care for. I’m not stuck in any sort of groove. Sometimes, it might be sharing that we tried something five years ago and it didn’t work quite right then, but would they be willing to try it again.”
Turley said the team and she continually train through webinars and other activities.
“I have always had access to new thoughts and practices,” she said.
Turley is now vice president of Day Services. In early 2000, Immacolata Manor added the Day Service program called "My Day" and Turley was asked to oversee it, which at the time served eight women. Under Turley’s leadership, it has grown to serve up to 90 people per day.
“I had two staff members to help out,” she said. "It was an adventure."
The day program is about maintaining and learning new skills, being part of the community, staying active and healthy and providing leisure activities as well, Turley said.
“For anyone, if we don’t use certain skills, we lose them,” she said. “It’s the same for those we serve. We talk about math skills, life skills. There are also those who come from group homes and home settings who need stimuli they can receive here.”
Turley said she has done a lot of reflection, especially about those early days.
“It was curtains for my place in Glenaire that led me to the thrift store,” she said. “We now live outside of Kearney, keeping our roots."
Service is a family affair for the Turleys. Turley's husband, Troy Turley, has done residential attendant work and Turley's daughters came to work with their mother. For the first year of their lives, the children were loved on and cared for by the Benedictine nuns and the 16 ladies their mother served.
Her two daughters are now grown with jobs of their own. Bethany now works at Maple Valley State School with children with disabilities and Bailey is a third-grade teacher at Alexander Doniphan Elementary in Liberty.
Throughout Turley’s 37 years at Life Unlimited, estimations are in the thousands as to the individuals she has served.
“I’m not planning on retiring,” she said. “I’d be up here volunteering any way. It’s always been about relationships. When we were closed down due to COVID, that was hard. Staff went to homes. No matter what, we are family and people. ... Overall, it’s been a good gig.”