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Walk a Mile in My Shoes (1982)

Walk a Mile in My Shoes (1982)

©1982, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1982, Winter). Walk in my shoes. Photos by Joe Pugh, Keith Bible, and Dallas Denny. Breakthrough: Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, 10(1), pp. 16-17.

Whoever edited this piece should have had a different job. In the text version I re-corrected most of the editorial “corrections” made to my submission.



Breakthrough Pages (PDF)


Walk in My Shoes

By Dallas Denny


Englishman Basil Liddell Hart once said, “Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes.”

And this is what happened at Greene Valley Developmental Center last fall as the Residential Services / Community Services Fourth Annual Workshop used the “walk in my shoes” format.

At dawn on November 4, about 60 professional staff of Greene Valley’s Residential and Program Services clustered outside the Administration Building. Developmental Supervisor Joe Pugh checked names from a clipboard and assigned drivers and passengers to various vehicles.

Those 60 people—team leaders, cottage managers, department heads, psychological examiners, resident program coordinators, and social workers—would visit many of the community agencies which serve retarded individuals in Greene Valley’s 34-county catchment area.

By 9 am the last van pulled away on Highway 11-E. Joe returned to his usual duties of team leader. These exchange program participants visited some community agencies to get a first-hand look at “what was happening” off campus of Greene Valley.

For several hours the individuals accompanied a staff person in a community agency, witnessing actual job activities.

This day proved to be very important for Greene Valley staff. Due to budget restraints it was about the only opportunity to actually see community placement in operation. Through this the staff can see some positive steps and some pitfalls in community placement.

Throughout that evening the vans and station wagons trickled back in. They discharged the ride-weary but happy individuals who were eager to try out new ideas, programs, and projects they had seen in operation. Programs visited included Orange Grove Center, Bristol Sheltered Workshop, Dawn of Hope, Douglas Adult Cooperative, Sertoma Learning Center, Michael Dunn Rehabilitation Center, Community Services for Exceptional Citizens, Daniel Arthur Rehabilitation Center, Washington Co. ARC League House, Bristol Regional Rehabilitation Center, Jabnell Boys’ Farm, Beta Home, Gateway House, Loudon County Adult Activity Center, Carter County Community Residence, and Oak Haven.

Many had the pleasure of seeing former Greene Valley residents proudly functioning in the community. They also witnessed the problems associated with federal budget cuts on various agencies.

On the second day of the workshop, about 40 staff of Greene Valley Community Services (based on the grounds of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, some 70 miles from the Valley ) arrived to tour Greene Valley cottages. On the previous day they had been the hosts; now they were being hosted. Fred Coe, director of Community Agencies, coordinated this day’s programs.

Although these people are Greene Valley employees, their place of employment and their job scope is completely different. This exchange gives Community Services personnel a look at what the residents they send to Greene Valley will encounter. This makes for easier transition to the facility.

On the third and final day of the workshop the participants told of their experiences and feelings while “walking in someone else’s shoes.” This was followed by a general discussion and later a picnic at Greene Valley’s beautiful campground.

This was the fourth Residential Services / Community Services Workshop and the second using the “walk in my shoes” format. These workshops were started as a means of opening channels of communication.

They also allow the staff of Residential and Community Services to share the joy and frustrations associated with their work. Robert Erb, GVDC’s Assistant Superintendent for Residential Services, and Mrs. Gene Williams originated the idea of having their staff members put on their counterparts’ shoes for a day.

Staff response to “Walk in My Shoes” has been very positive and will probably be the format of the workshop in alternating years.