Durham News

‘A young man who wants to live on his own’

Sandee Demeree and her husband, Michael Toohey, also own the building next door to their North Street Community home and rent out its two apartments. Sloan Meek and Wendy Lincicome moved into one of them just over a year ago.

Lincicome is a full-time live-in caretaker for Meek, who has cerebral palsy. They met 20 years ago when Meek was 6 and Lincicome was an Orange County respite provider for his parents.

“We sort of adopted each other,” Lincicome said.

In the North Street Community, “Everybody’s dealing with reality, with their real issues,” Sandy Demeree said. “Getting their person with disabilities to here or to there and there’s all this real- world stuff that has to happen and if they need help we put it over the listserv ... and see who can help.”

Before moving to North Street, Lincicome and Meek lived in the Burch Avenue area. A Reality Ministries contact put them in touch with Demeree and they arranged a lease and got an apartment designed and built just for them.

At the time, Meek’s health had been in a long decline. “For two years ... I was in a lot of pain,” Meek said, speaking by way of recorded answers to frequently asked questions he has stored in a computer he is able to manipulate from his wheelchair. Their move was in June 2013. “By September,” he said, “I was healing ... able to stop my medication.”

What effect the changed living situation may have had, if any, remains a question, but now Meek is able to work volunteer jobs at the Center for Senior Citizens and the Reality Center and leads a full life. This summer, he goes to a Reality Ministries day camp where his mother is a volunteer.

“He’s got Reality Ministries activities, he’s got music therapy, he’s got visits from his dad, he gets invites constantly from friends ... It’s a busy day,” said Lincicome. He and his two best friends call themselves the “Meek Man Crew” and had T-shirts made that say so. Lincicome said they’re in demand around the neighborhood.

“His girlfriend’s at daycamp with him, they’ve been dating for six years. ... Her parents bought her a place so she’s going to be living in the neighborhood next year when she graduates from college.”

She described Meek as “a music kinda guy,” who likes to go to concerts and clubs like Motorco just two blocks away. With electronic assistance, Meek even plays guitar and keyboard and holds jam sessions in the apartment, she said. Some Duke engineering students built a guitar stand for him, as well as adapting his wheelchair to control leashes so Meek can take their dogs, Lily and Luna, out to walk.

“People like Sloan and want to help out, so we’re lucky that way,” she said. “He’s a young man who wants to live on his own. He’s not any different from any 26-year-old man.”