Home / News / Prototype group home for young women with autism under construction in Ponte Vedra – Florida Times-Union

Prototype group home for young women with autism under construction in Ponte Vedra – Florida Times-Union

PALM VALLEY | At first look, the 2-story home under construction on South Roscoe Boulevard in Palm Valley could possibly be the longer term home of anybody with a inexperienced thumb and an agricultural bent.

There is a big natural backyard out entrance and a hen coop out again.

But the Peace of Heart Home is the prototype of a brand new type of lengthy-time period group home for young women with autism. The backyard and hen coop are amongst a number of fundraising arms for the trigger.

Expected to be full by early subsequent yr, the home will function household and group engagement, vocational coaching and networking. Phase 2 would be the “gathering place,” a standalone constructing for residents and the group, the place backyard and artwork workshops, guide golf equipment, social occasions and coaching for individuals with autism shall be provided.

The aim is to provide six native young women “an opportunity for a meaningful life” and supply a brand new group-home mannequin for different communities, stated Howard Groshell, whose daughter, Gentry, shall be one of many Peace of Heart residents.

“Life is a gift,” he stated. “A meaningful life is a task.”


The Peace of Heart Community — the nonprofit steering the venture — was based by Groshell and spouse Amy in 2014 with their daughter in thoughts.

Gentry, 21, who’s profoundly autistic, lives in an Orange Park group home. She is protected and nicely cared for there however remoted from the group. Her mother and father needed extra for the artistic Gentry, whose artwork work is one other fundraiser for Peace of Heart.

“It was not where we wanted her to be for the rest of her life,” Groshell stated.

They frightened about the remainder of her life, as do many mother and father of the rising numbers of particular-wants young individuals growing older out of faculty system packages. They couldn’t discover the group home they envisioned, so after a lot debate, a lot pondering concerning the impression on their three different youngsters, they determined to start out certainly one of their very own.

“We have to do this, create a prototype group home,” he stated. “An environment that can be all inclusive [with the community].”

Building the two,500-square-foot home and equipping it for its particular-wants residents will value about $775,000, which is being funded by fundraising, donations and grants. Medicaid can pay a lot of the residents’ bills as soon as it opens. In the autumn, a capital marketing campaign can be launched for the “gathering place,” which is predicted to value about $125,000, stated improvement director Kim Hitchcock.

Meanwhile, a Northeast Florida nonprofit referred to as HEAL, Helping Enrich Autistic Lives, has given Peace of Heart a $12,500 grant for a small outside pavilion just like a picnic shelter. Founder Leslie Weed stated her daughter Lanier, who has autism and lives in the identical Orange Park group home as Gentry, will probably be one of many residents of the brand new group home.

“It is fabulous and will most likely be a prototype that many will want to emulate and build in their community,” Weed stated. “It is going to be so wonderful.”

Such help has come from many corners, Hitchcock stated.

“We have had an outpouring of response, volunteers and partners,” she stated. “People have been drawn to it for very different reasons.”

Hitchcock had private causes: Her stepson has autism and she or he previously labored for L’Arche Jacksonville, which runs group houses for individuals with mental and developmental disabilities.

“I know how much it helped me, how much meaning it brought to my life,” she stated. “We hope down the road this community grows, but also is a resource [for other special-needs communities]. We want to share this.”

One lady who visited the Palm Valley website stated she had endured the identical sort of irritating group-home search for her baby because the Groshells did for Gentry. She additionally contemplated beginning her personal group home, till she came upon about Peace of Heart.

She advised them that they had “built what I dreamed of for my daughter,” Hitchcock stated.


On a current scorching Saturday morning, volunteers have been on their knees working in the Peace of Heart backyard. They have been tending lettuces, kale, collards and child heirloom tomatoes.

Among them have been Ann and Ed Lewis, who haven’t any relations with autism however heard concerning the undertaking, did some analysis and determined it was worthy of their volunteer time.

“It is an excellent cause,” Ed Lewis stated.

He recommended the Groshells for their efforts, which can assist not solely their daughter however different mother and father’ particular-wants youngsters as nicely. They confronted a problem and determined to “do something about it,” his spouse stated. “I think that’s fabulous and definitely deserves help.”

Another backyard volunteer was Boris Vasilenko, who has a 14-year-previous son with autism. He stated he prays for one other Peace of Heart home in the longer term, one for young males.

“I know what it’s like,” he stated.

Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109

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