Robby’s Cause leads to state’s first-ever group home for deaf

Photo submitted: Residents and employees of Marrakech Inc. at the first ever group home for the deaf in the state, located in Winsted.
Photo submitted: Residents and employees of Marrakech Inc. at the first ever group home for the deaf in the state, located in Winsted.
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WINSTED — After much work by Mystic resident Sherri Zummo, the first-ever group home for the deaf has opened in town.
Zummo is the mother of 21-year-old Robby Porter.
Porter is profoundly deaf, intellectually disabled, autistic and has many medical issues.
According to Zummo, Porter needs one to one support 24 hours a day.
He was a student at the American School for the Deaf for 10 years before he graduated in June.
“He’s 21 years old, but cognitively he is a six-year-old child across the board,” Zummo said. “When you have a child like this, you have to plan for their life and their future. You have to try to give them as much of an independent life as possible.”
Zummo said that, while her son was a candidate for a group home, there was no group home available for someone who is deaf.
“That’s why I tried to find an agency that would be willing to create a home for the deaf population,” Zummo said. “It took me five years to find Marrakech who helped me substantially with the group home.”
Marrakech Inc. out of Woodbridge is a nonprofit organization that provides various services, including residential, support and advocacy services to individuals with disabilities.
Working with Marrakech, along with funding from the state and through private donations, Zummo has created a group home for her son and two other deaf residents in Winsted.
Zummo said that the group home is the first of its kind in the state.
She said that Winsted was chosen as the group home’s location because of Northwestern Connecticut Community College’s American Sign Language programs.
Zummo added that the home has been outfitted with technology to assist everyone who lives there full-time.
“We have videophones in the house that flash lights when phone calls come in,” Zummo said. “There are also doorbells outside of everyone’s bedrooms that flash a signal so no one just walks in. We know that there is a high bear population in Winsted, so there is even a bear alarm that is triggered if we have a bear around.”
The house is staffed by Marrakech employees who were specially trained to work at the group home.
“This is new for us and our organization,” Marrakech CEO Heather LaTorra said. “We have staff members who are deaf, but we also have had to learn about deaf culture. Our staff makes sure that everyone who is living at the house is safe and healthy.”
Zummo said that she hopes that there will be more group houses for those in need around the state.
“I know that there are other Robbys out there,” Zummo said. “It is my dream to have at least three more of these kinds of houses in the Winsted area.”
For more information about Robby’s Cause, go to https://www.facebook.com/robbyscause/

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