BALDWIN — A kiss for grandma is given by many children without knowing the depth of what it means to their grannies and paw paws. 

That’s especially the case for Jennifer Lanceslin of Baldwin whose 14-year-old grandson, Kameron Patterson, was born with autism, a condition the family didn’t discover until he was 2 1/2 years old.

What’s even more ironic for Lanceslin is the fact she was working as a case manager for the Early Steps Program, which aids children 0 to 3 years old who have disabilities, under the umbrella of the state Department of Health and Hospitals at the time of Kameron’s birth.

“I didn’t see it. It shocked me. You can never be prepared.” Lanceslin said. “I just cried for days but then we realized there was still life beyond the disability so we embraced it.”

The resolve to accept her grandson as is and celebrate each accomplishment in his life fueled the resolve by Lanceslin to invest in ensuring that a great quality of life can be maintained for every person in her community who may have an extra challenge to face in life because of a disability. She started the nonprofit group “Community of Friends”

“I launched Community of Friends because these persons may have disabilities but we can embrace their abilities and they have so much to offer the community,” Lanceslin said.

Community of Friends is made up of people 14 to 59 who meet and take field trips to the Baldwin Library, Town Hall, U.S. Post Office and the local eatery Chick’s Burgers as a part of the activities that make them visible to the community. A St. Mary Foundation grant recently gave Lanceslin the ability to buy computer tablets and cameras for members of the group.

“You can’t close them up or put them to the side and we don’t want to put them on display but even with us who don’t have disabilities. As humans we may have good days and bad days but we still go out into  the community smile  and face our day.” Lanceslin said.

Her passion is still fueled by grandson Kameron’s daily accomplishments that are big in her heart.

“I brag on his big dimples,” Lanceslin said. “A smile is something that gives back and he may lift someone up with his smile. He’s very helpful very respectful.  No matter what we all need the same thing to be loved valued and respected in our communities.”

Jennifer Lanceslin is married to her husband Dean and has one daughter LaQuanta Collins and four grandsons, Kameron, Kyron, Kaden, and Bruce Jr.

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