Reflecting on 35 Years in KenCrest Lifesharing

Stephanie Brown at her 35th Anniversary party. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

After celebrating 35 years in KenCrest Lifesharing, Stephanie Brown reflects on her time within the company and receiving the Sister Grace award.

By Sydney Kerelo

“I can still remember when I first started at KenCrest,” reminisces Stephanie Brown, the Senior Referral Manager for Lifesharing. “35 years is a long time to be in the human services field.”

Fresh out of college, with no real-life experience, Stephanie Brown applied to work at River Crest—the Agency’s first residential property, and the ‘Crest’ in KenCrest, which was an Intermediate Care Facility at the time before it was bought out and recreated into a Golf Club—as a Direct Support Professional. And she loved it.

From the first moment she stepped onto River Crest’s campus, she knew this was what she was meant to do. About three months in, Brown was promoted to Assistant Manager and later to Program Manager of one of the homes supporting people with challenging behaviors. While the work was hard, she loved it. For three years, she worked at RiverCrest until Brown and her family moved to Virginia. A few years later, she returned to Pennsylvania, and it turned into an opportunity to reconnect with her former employer, KenCrest.

Stephanie Brown // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

“I had just started a family, so I needed a job that offered day shifts,” says Brown. “So I applied to work at KenCrest in the Robinson Street day program, where I worked for about a year, and then I saw a flyer for a Lifesharing Coordinator.”

“I instantly knew I could do more than what I was doing,” she adds. “And I loved the concept of Lifesharing. So I applied, and 35 years later, here I am!”

KenCrest began offering Lifesharing in 1985 as an alternative residential option for adults with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Since its inception, the program has brought together more than 140 people with disabilities and their Lifesharing providers in Pennsylvania. Some matches have been together for most of their lives, like Hakeem Horton, who was given a second chance at a family at just six years old, or Sandy, who entered a Lifesharing partnership with her sister Lara after their mother passed away.

Others, like Beth Ann and Adrienne Hayman, have connected through different IDD programs, churches, or even by happenstance in the lifesharing matching process. This dynamic duo has been together for over five years and is inseparable; whether dancing around the house or attending family birthday parties, they are always together.

Adrienne even said that if she shows up to a family gathering without Beth Ann, they get upset, and the first thing they say is, ‘Where is Beth Ann?’


Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

“These stories are why I have stayed in Lifesharing so long,” Brown says. “I’ve seen the most changes in people we support in Lifesharing because they live their best lives. It’s no accident that Lifesharing has consistently maintained the greatest individual life satisfaction from any other residential service area (per IM4Q). It’s because they have the same people in their lives; it’s the same family day in and day out, and consistency is how you build relationships.”

As the senior referral Manager for Lifesharing, Brown matches individuals looking to join Lifesharing with families. She initially vets the families interested in Lifesharing to ensure they are capable and prepared to become a Lifesharing family. Then, she conducts a home study to ensure their home meets health and safety standards and determines the kind of person who will fit in well with their family.

On the flip side, Brown works with people with disabilities who are interested in joining a Lifesharing family. She receives referrals from local county offices or Support Coordinators and then meets with the individuals to find out what they want in a family, what they want to do with their lives, and what’s important to them.

“And the beauty is when we find a match that meets the wants and needs of both the family and the individual,” says Brown. “It’s incredible. Anything that you can experience in your life, people can experience in Lifesharing; they are finally living their best lives.”

During KenCrest’s staff event this year, Stephanie Brown was quite surprised when she was awarded the Sister Grace award, one of the highest awards one can achieve while at KenCrest. In 1947, Sister Grace Jones came to KenCrest as the newly appointed Deaconess-In-Charge, working tirelessly to redirect the Agency’s vision and expand its impact. She wanted to change KenCrest’s mission into a more inclusive setting for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. She was known as someone who never took “no” for an answer, inspired excellence amongst those she worked with, and led KenCrest through many pivotal decisions and transformations. She was an unwavering advocate for the IDD community and often testified at state hearings on improving services and meeting the needs of those we serve at KenCrest.

Sister Grace embodied innovation, cooperative action, volunteerism, equality, and longevity, which Brown exemplifies. For 35 years, Brown has helped hundreds of individuals find a loving and caring Lifesharing family and put her entire heart into her work. She creates long-lasting relationships with those she supports and will drop everything to be there for them.


Stephanie Brown posing with her fellow Sister Grace award winners. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

During the Staff Event, as KenCrest’s President and CEO, Marian Baldini, described how Brown has exemplified her dedication to those served, Brown was utterly shell-shocked. The moment felt unreal, emotional, and overwhelming.

“As I walked up to receive the award, I thought of the many amazing mentors and co-workers I have had the privilege of working with at KenCrest,” says Brown. “It was a humbling experience to be included in the Sister Grace award winners group. I know many of the former award winners, and they have dedicated their lives to supporting individuals, children, and families at KenCrest.”

“This award is particularly special to me because I met Sister Grace while working at RiverCrest. She was a formidable woman who gave her best and brought out the best in others. She embodied the true mission and spirit of KenCrest, and I have tried to give my best to the people I support and the teams I worked with,” adds Brown. “At our core, all of us at KenCrest are here to improve individuals, children’s, and families’ lives. If I have positively impacted people’s lives, I am more than gratified.”