1 of 3
2 of 3
Dare to Care
Dare to Care Charities supports Katie’s Place by leasing the nonprofit the farm site at no cost. Will you help too?
3 of 3
The dream of a place where adults with significant disabilities can come to build friendships and participate in an active community is steadily becoming a reality.
Something is happening on a quiet piece of farm land in western Bedford County. Playing with a rabbit is making someone smile. Feeding a flock of chickens is teaching someone else a lesson about caring for animals. Nearby a group is planting crops in a garden, working together for a common purpose that brightens their lives and gives them a sense of pride and personal accomplishment.
But what’s really special – many of these individuals are adults with intellectual disabilities.
In late January, Katie’s Place Farm, a nonprofit organization formed “to provide persons with developmental disabilities an opportunity to live their lives with purpose and meaning,” took a big step forward with the launch of a new community farm program offered three days a week.
“It’s been magical,” says Program Director Amy Baker. “When you pair up animals with this population there is a certain thing that happens. There is a calmness and a really neat empowerment because they’re taking care of something else, watching it thrive and live because of them.”
Adults with disabilities are often left with nothing to do but sit at home after age 22 because they are no longer eligible for public education, so Katie’s Place is designed to be a “next step” for these individuals. The organization was originally incorporated in 2005 to help fill an unmet need after the Lewis-Gale Medical Center canceled its animal-assisted therapy program, but its mission quickly grew larger. Today long-term plans call for the addition of a residential home on the farm where a small group of adults will one day be able live fulfilling lives as part of a larger farm community.
“We saw the need far exceeded just an hour of animal therapy a week, so why not build a life around it?” says Co-President Joy Parrish, whose daughter Annie has cerebral palsy.
“As people spend time here all day every day for a large part of there lives, there could come a time when there is a need to transition to a residential placement,” she continues, pointing to adults who outlive their primary caregivers as an example. “By that time the farm would feel like home to them, and they wouldn’t have the shock of having to move out of their childhood home to a place that is entirely foreign.”
In order for Katie’s Place to succeed it will need the support of the community. As this issue goes to press the farm is awaiting licensure from the state that will allow it to accept Medicaid waivers, but even after that process is complete there will still be a critical need to support individuals without funding.
“I have seen people wait five or six years for a Medicaid waiver, and they’re on the emergency wait list,” Baker says. “The Foundation for the Roanoke Valley was very generous and we were able to receive their philanthropy grant last year, which gave us a $25,000 head start. So right now no one pays anything to come here. But that’s going to be an ongoing need, and our ability to meet it is going to be based on our community’s willingness to support these people through charitable donations.”
How You Can Help: In addition to monetary donations, Katie’s Place is currently in need of fencing for animals, farm tools and other equipment as well as volunteers who would like to help on the farm or by leading a craft or cooking activity. To learn more call Amy Baker at 540-947-2777 or visit katiesplacefarm.org.