DOCTORS INLET – Eight Clay County residents will call a home on College Drive theirs thanks to the work of an Orange Park-based nonprofit organization.
Nearly 40 people gathered on Aug. 17 at the newest community home built by Building Abilities of Special Children and Adults to see its doors officially open to its incoming residents. While the residents weren’t home – they work and take part in BASCA-related opportunities during the work day – BASCA officials, county commissioners, volunteers and others took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony to symbolize what was once a house is now a home.
“We are so excited to open this home,” said Patrice Sherman, BASCA director of progams. “We’re fulfilling our vision that started in 1995 [when BASCA was founded]. This home is a home meant to deal with greater needs than our other homes deal with and we’re excited to be able to offer this opportunity to eight individuals who truly deserve this.”
Other homes BASCA has built are more focused on addressing the mental challenges residents might face. This home, however, addresses the physical challenges its residents face. Some will need help showering; others cooking and for others, simply moving around the house. An around-the-clock trained staff ensures residents no longer encounter the daily troubles they might have once faced in their lives.
“We will have a core set of workers that are here to help them,” said Mary List, BASCA executive director of operations. “There will be different shifts and multiple people to cover those shifts, but it will be the same people coming in on the same shifts. It’s important to us that our residents and workers build a relationship.”
BASCA is a full-service agency that strives to not only house individuals that need special attention for their mental and physical needs but provides day programs to keep its members active within the community as well. BASCA was founded to provide to better living, working, educational, social and recreational opportunities for children and adults with special needs.
According to List, the goal of the new house is not just to provide the residents the help they need but give them a place they can truly call home.
“Each of our residents has their own personal space and they’re free to do with it what they want,” List said. “If someone wants a Jacksonville Jaguar room, they can have that. The goal here is to make this home theirs.”
To make each resident feel at home, BASCA goes above and beyond state requirements of living space. Sherman said that the state only requires each person gets roughly 80 square feet of living space, not counting the bed and other common room features.
In this home, though, each resident has a room large enough to be considered a master bedroom. It’s tough to imagine a house with more than one master bedroom, let alone eight but just as you’d imagine, this house, as a result, is massive. While it doesn’t tower over the area like a mansion, it does have hallways that just seem to keep going. At one end of the house is a living room. Halfway through the house is another living room. The kitchen is large enough to allow multiple people to cook at once and there are enough bathrooms that there will almost always be at least one available.
“The people that will be living here are some of the greatest people and only the greatest home would do,” List said.
List and Sherman were so excited during the open house that took place before the ribbon cutting that one would’ve guessed this house was for them, but this excitement had nothing to do with them and everything to do with the residents that will call it home.
“We’re just so excited about this,” Sherman said. “We’re truly achieving the vision of BASCA with this house and everything it sets out to do.”
And while it might seem like this house is a gift, and in some ways, it certainly is, the residents will still be playing realty just like any other Clay County resident. Residents have to sign a lease and agree to a set of rules. At the time of the open-house, four people had already done so with another four set to do so soon. After move-in day, the eight residents and BASCA workers will work together to turn the house into a home with aromas of family meals, room personalization and more.
“Once [all eight residents] are settled in, this home will really start to shine,” List said. “It’ll do what it was always meant to.”