Matt Payton wanted, like many young people, to move out of his parents' house. It was a natural inkling, but one confounded by more problems than your average graduate would experience. Payton has cerebral palsy and, like many with his disability, has a hard time living without assistance.
Out of this obstacle, however, a true symbiotic relationship was born between Payton and Project Freedom, a nonprofit organization that operates housing for those with disabilities to lead lives of independence. Not only has Payton lived at Project Freedom in Robbinsville, NJ, for the last 11 years, but he's also one of their most dedicated and recognizable volunteers.
Payton's day begins at 7 a.m. when his aide arrives to get him up, showered and dressed in time to catch a ride on NJ Transit's Access Link to the hospital. Access Link has a 40-minute window in which Payton's van can arrive to pick him up. This means that if his aide is delayed in getting him up and Access Link arrives early, he can miss his ride. It also means that Payton can wait for 40 minutes or more if Access Link is late.
"It is part of living with a disability and trying to be active in the community," said Payton. "I can't drive myself. I can't use the regular NJ Transit bus, so I need to use Access Link to go to work."
Payton says that living at Project Freedom allows him to live independently with minimal assistance. As a community volunteer, he's one of the top sellers in their annual raffle, and a fixture at the New Jersey-based nonprofit.