Burt and Barbara

Burt and Barbara were residents of Willowbrook State School, an institution that until the 1980s housed more than 5,000 residents. A 1972 exposé by Geraldo Rivera revealed the inhumane conditions at the school, including physical and sexual abuse, and showed residents left unfed, unwashed and unattended for days on end.

As Willowbrook slowly dismantled, Burt and Barbara were transferred to a smaller residence run by Volunteers of America. In 1979, they met on a bus on the way to a workshop, and fell in love. Barbara says that it was love at first sight.

It took several years of advocacy by Volunteers of America and other community groups for Burt and Barbara to finally get their license to wed, which they did in 1985. In 2010, we commemorated their 25th wedding anniversary with a party where friends, family and staff-- some of whom have spent more than 17 years by the couple's side-- gathered to share their joy. 

Now retired, the couple continues to live in their own apartment, rising each day to spend time with friends at their neighborhood senior citizen center. For individuals like Burt and Barbara, Volunteers of America has afforded them the opportunity to gain their much deserved independence and to enjoy a life of dignity, richness, and, in their case, love.As Willowbrook slowly dismantled, Burt and Barbara were transferred to a smaller residence run by Volunteers of America. In 1979, they met on a bus on the way to a workshop, and fell in love. Barbara says that it was love at first sight.

It took several years of advocacy by Volunteers of America and other community groups for Burt and Barbara to finally get their license to wed, which they did in 1985. In 2010, we commemorated their 25th wedding anniversary with a party where friends, family and staff-- some of whom have spent more than 17 years by the couple's side-- gathered to share their joy. 

Now retired, the couple continues to live in their own apartment, rising each day to spend time with friends at their neighborhood senior citizen center. For individuals like Burt and Barbara, Volunteers of America has afforded them the opportunity to gain their much deserved independence and to enjoy a life of dignity, richness, and, in their case, love.