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BASCA's 30-year anniversary celebrates its 'forever homes'

Posted 6/20/24

ORANGE PARK  — BASCA CEO Patrick Kennedy gave Clay Today a house tour of a property located on Old Jennings Road, the  permanent home for seven with disabilities.  The home was …

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BASCA's 30-year anniversary celebrates its 'forever homes'


ORANGE PARK — BASCA CEO Patrick Kennedy gave Clay Today a house tour of a property located on Old Jennings Road, the permanent home for seven with disabilities. 

The home was spacious, clean and wheelchair accessible. The kitchen's sweeping granite countertop was wide enough to accommodate multiple people. "Too many cooks" is a figure of speech that does not apply in this home kitchen. Past the kitchen is the living room, shared bathrooms and eight bedrooms. Continue down the hallway, and you'll step out to the back porch, the outside table, and the backyard.

One of the individuals set out food and water for a community cat that has been wandering the neighborhood. 

 Each individual owns their bedroom. They fully own their space, as demonstrated by their unique ways of decorating. Family portraits, posters, books, TVs, toys and other belongings reflect the individuals who live there. 

Kennedy said this is what makes BASCA stand out from other group homes, where residents share bedrooms and are typically assigned roommates. 

"Having your room – that is our unique idea. And still today, we are still one of the very few organizations that provide that. We believe in it fully," Kennedy said during the house tour, describing each detail with the passion of a realtor from HGTV. 

"It is not a transitional place. This is their 'forever home' – the phrase we coined. That is why we wanted to give them their own room and space," Pat Bray said during an interview at the BASCA community center in Orange Park. 

BASCA, which now stands for Building Abilities of Special Children and Adults, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Bray was one of the original 12 participants in the BASCA organization, which was founded by John and Linda Cone and Tony and Jo Knott in June 1994.

Bray's daughter, Shannon, graduated high school in the spring of 1994. She and other parents of recent children with special needs wanted to continue to enrich their children's lives. 

“What would be the next steps of their life? That's how it started 30 years ago in Orange Park. The first meeting was at the Baptist Church on Kingsley (Avenue). We met there basically every Tuesday night. (There were) activities for young adults and a speaker who talked about issues," Bray said. 

Bray shared how she and other parents — such as John and Linda Cone and Tony and Jo Knott — came together to create activities and environments for children with special needs.

"It progressed from there. We started going bowling," Bray said. 

In 1995, a Saturday bowling event was started at Bowl America of Orange Park, led by Linda Cone. The event was later named "High Rollers," with an attendance of 170 weekly participants. The event continued until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The Bowl America building was sold in 2022, but BASCA continues to bowl at other locations. 

BASCA's first forever home was in Lakeside, and its doors were opened in 2001 for six women. 

"That was the start of our great idea to support individuals forever. They came to live there because their parents were aging, and we wanted to support them and give them a home. That's why we call it their forever home. And we have four of them," Bray said. 

"When we look back, 30 years is a big deal. And we have come a long way," she said.

Two forever homes are fully housed with eight residents, and two others have seven. Residents' families pay for room and board, which covers the cost of their rent, utilities,

and food. Additionally, the state of Florida provides funding per resident. Each home has an attached staff office on site, and there are always personnel on duty. 

During the day, residents from the four forever homes are transported to the BASCA Day Program at the community center in Orange Park, where individuals enjoy activities and cultivate life skills with an individualized support plan. Daily training includes coordination, sensory stimulation, physical exercise and group socialization. Training is conducted in a classroom environment and community field trips, the Pirate and Treasure Museum in St. Augustine being one of the favorites.  

The BASCA community center is also the site of its thrift store, BASCA Bargain Boutique, which opened in 2016. It's full of hidden gems – furniture, clothing, knickknacks, art, books and toys – and is always looking for more. For those interested in donating, visit bascainc.org/boutique/. BASCA Bargain Boutique will transport donated or purchased furniture. 

Bob and Marge Holliday are thankful their son, Michael, has been able to live at the Old Jennings Road forever home since 2005. 

Michael loves the Jaguars and goes to EverBank Stadium to watch home games. He decorated the walls in his room with posters of his favorite team, and he had his own chair in the living room designated as "Michael's Chair."

"It is his home. He'll come back for Christmas or Thanksgiving weekend. By Sunday, he'll be packed up and ready to return to his home. That is a good feeling. He considers that his home, and he likes to see us every once in a while," Bob Holliday said.

BASCA invites the community to tour its facilities, volunteer for an event, and become a Friend of BASCA to help those with intellectual and developmental differences who call BASCA home. To contact and schedule a campus tour or to learn more, visit bascainc.org.