Peace of Heart Community Home, a residential home for young women with autism opening 12-18, was conceived after many years of deep soul-searching. My husband, Howard Groshell, and I had seen firsthand the benefits of our daughter Gentry (now 22) living in a group home with other young women with autism. Something changed though, with her behavior largely contained by behavior strategies and a high staff to resident ratio, she was missing a program with "heart". No attempts were being made to integrate her or her peers into the community, provide alternate communication strategies or access to faith based or other enrichment opportunities. Were something to ever happen to us, this would not be good enough. In addition, we are keenly aware of the tsunami of young persons leaving the pubic education sector and entering adulthood with only limited programming available to adequately fill their days. Government funding alone will not cover the need. These realities along with our belief in the inherent capabilities, intelligence, and sensitivity of these persons (presumed competence) propelled us to do something about the situation at hand. A right to communication is essential giving persons with motor planning (dyspraxia) challenges the opportunity for a life of hope where dreams can be shared and intelligence can be uncovered from the often unintentional behaviors that seem to currently define autism.
Another personal experience motivated us toward forming Peace of Heart Community (POHC). Having been a part of our church's grassroots efforts to start a ministry to persons with special needs, it became quickly apparent that the whole family unit would be reached as part of this ministry. When a person with a disability is ministered to it deeply impacts the family. Not only this but it impacts the person reaching out to meet the need too. At POHC, it is our firm belief that not only are all persons equal in value to God but also to each other. There is an interdependence on one another that brings meaning and value to both parties. Life is best lived in a dynamic exchange, not in a relationship of superiority vs. inferiority where one is dependent on the other. The person with special needs is already deeply acquainted with her need for others for her very existence but such need for another person is often not as apparent to the one volunteering or providing the service. When all persons are aware of the tremendous blessing that comes from serving each other, a community is formed. It is this community that we are striving for. In order to accomplish this, our venture will address the "heart" of the person with autism through our 2 pillars - community (family and community partnerships) and sustainability (our farm and art programs). Both pillars will enable our model to be a prototype for others to replicate. Our pillars of community and sustainability under the umbrella of faith and presumed competence will make us a beacon of light to the community we live in and beyond. It is our sincere hope that you will want to join us on this journey to make Peace of Heart Community a reality!