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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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        For Sunshine Communities and St. Jerome Catholic Church, a new home being built in Walbridge is the beginning of a wonderful and fulfilling relationship between the home’s residents and the Walbridge community,

        Ground was broken for the new single-family home near St. Jerome Catholic Church on Tuesday, Aug. 29. According to Robin Erb, vice president of communications for Sunshine Communities, the new home will offer people with intellectual and developmental disabilities new friendships and social connections.

 

        “We all like to be in a place where we can develop friendships and relationships,” Erb said. “For people with disabilities, living in a home, in a neighborhood, helps them build meaningful relationships in the community.”

        While most of us can take friendship for granted, people with disabilities don't always have that luxury because they too often live apart from the communities around them. That limits opportunities for

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Father Eric Schild, St. Jerome Church,  and Jason Abodeely, president and CEO of Sunshine Community accept a gift from Noah Kistler, age 10. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)

meaningful, lasting relationships that can develop between neighbors, for example.”

        Yet, human connection is what enriches our lives most, Jason Abodeely, CEO of Maumee-based Sunshine Communities, said. Abodeely noted that Sunshine’s mission is to “create community,” and part of St. Jerome’s mission is to “build community.”

        “Today we share a common mission,” he said. “I feel confident that both of us are in good hands and our futures look bright,” he said. “Each of you understands the gifts and talents that all people, including those with disabilities, have within them. It is that very recognition of God’s gifts that have been bestowed to every one of us, that will help make this partnership successful.”

        The eight men and women who move into the new home will enjoy immediate social connections with St. Jerome Catholic Church, Father Eric Schild said, adding parishioners quickly embraced the concept of the home when they began discussing it last summer.

        “Our parishioners understand and embrace the mission of Sunshine and are eager to be involved with this new ministry opportunity. We truly believe that God has created all people in his image and likeness and welcoming all people to be a part of our faith community and our neighborhood is exactly what the Catholic Church is all about,” he said.

        Walbridge Mayor Ed Kolanko said he was excited to welcome a new employer to Walbridge.

        “It is always great to welcome a new employer, particularly one whose mission is so uplifting and positive,” Kolanko said. “We are very excited for the development of the property. We are also very proud to be the first community in Wood County with a Sunshine home. It speaks very highly of the village of Walbridge.”

        The current project in Walbridge continues a Sunshine mission which began in 1950 when, at a time when many children with disabilities were institutionalized, a Maumee couple built a home for their five disabled children and dozens of others.

        Formerly a children’s home, Sunshine Communities today provides a wide range of services, including residential, vocational, therapeutic and recreational, to more than 400 men, women and children in Northwest Ohio.

        In 1978, Sunshine opened the first of its family care homes to help individuals with developmental disabilities live in the community.

        Today, nearly 100 men, women and children with developmental disabilities live in 18 family care homes around Fulton and Lucas county that are owned by Sunshine and licensed by the state of Ohio. Residents of these homes receive support from Sunshine’s direct care staff, called Direct Support Professionals.

        More than 50 residents live at the original Maumee campus, which also houses Sunshine’s administrative offices.

Erb said the eight individuals who will move into the new home, are residents in Maumee. It was their decision to move into the home.

        “The church and the parishioners are already friends with them before they even move in,” Erb said. “If they want, they can be a part of the social group at the parish. We have had many parishioners ask how they could volunteer as well. It is very exciting and beautiful to see our residents being accepted and embraced in the community.”

        Erb said construction will begin in the next few weeks. The home is expected to be completed by the spring of 2018.

 

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