Apple Patch Community Patch

Group home opens in April in Crestwood

To serve residents with mild
to moderate mental retardation

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

CRESTWOOD, Ky.(April 2003) - A dream conceived nearly 15 years ago by a group of parents of children with mental retardation will become a reality this month with the opening of the first group home at Apple Patch Community.
Located just north of I-71 on Hwy. 329 near Crestwood, Ky., the budding community is the result of many years of diligence and commitment to what founders hope will be a haven for adults with mild to moderate mental retardation who may not otherwise have the opportunity to live on their own.

Apple Patch

Photo by Ruth Wright

Building nears completion just off
I-71 at the Crestwood Exit 14.

The Apple Patch vision began in the late 1980’s, when several Louisville-area parents of children with mental retardation began searching the country for what they considered secure and happy places their children could live after they could no longer care for them. Oldham County resident Afaf Shaheen was one of those parents. “We wondered, ‘what’s going to happen to our children?’ and we needed to start thinking about it,” Shaheen said. Shaheen and others soon began traveling the country in search of places they felt exemplified the kind of environment they wanted for their children.
The parents found two facilities, Baddour Center near Memphis, Tenn., and Lambs Farm outside Chicago, Ill., that offered the kind of environment they were looking for. Both were large, campus-oriented communities where residents with disabilities were able to live and work among their peers. And most importantly, the residents seem genuinely happy. The parents returned home with the goal of establishing a similar community in the Louisville area.
To fulfill their goal, the families first needed to raise money. One of the early fundraising activities was the operation of a snack bar at the Louisville Antique Mall. Family, friends and businesses also donated to the cause, Shaheen said.
The second initiative of the group was to find a place to house their dream. The group wanted to build a community on a sizable property with plenty of room to grow. “We wanted Oldham County because there was so much land there,” Shaheen stated. That idea got the attention of Frank and Peggy Otte.
The Ottes, who own several nurseries in Jefferson County, decided that they would donate a large parcel of their own land in Oldham County. In 1997, they gave Apple Patch 47 acres, formerly a tree farm, for development of the community.
Donation of the land by the Ottes literally lent the project solid footing.
Originally, Apple Patch was planned as an exclusive community open only to adults with mental retardation, much like the closed-campuses of Baddour Center and Lambs Farm visited by the founding members. But as time passed, the community’s 23-member board of directors developed an expanded vision for the project.
Communities open to both the general public and individuals with special needs provide what are known as natural supports. For example, if residents need help, they can call on neighbors for assistance. And, according to April Duval, Executive Director of the Council on Mental Retardation in Louisville, Ky., these types of communities are more compatible with the general experience of most people with disabilities.
With these details in mind, last November Gary Wietharn, chairman of the Apple Patch board, presented an expanded vision for the community. Of the 47 acres available, it was announced that approximately 15 would be used for the construction of patio homes and/or townhouses available to both individuals with disabilities and the general public in addition to the group homes that were originally planned. “Our hope or vision is that it will provide more of a normal support system,” said Wietharn.
Apple Patch’s expanded vision will provide many benefits to potential residents, their families and the community. Not only will new avenues of support be available for residents with disabilities and their families, but members of the general public will have the opportunity to live in a community with a large number of amenities, Spoelker said.
Another benefit of the expanded vision of Apple Patch are additional funding options available to such a community. Government agencies will be much more fiscally supportive now that an integrated community is being planned, Spoelker added.
Exactly how Apple Patch will be integrated and what the popollution of the community will be has not yet been confirmed. It is certain, however, that the main focus of the project will still be to provide secure and housing to as many individuals with disabilities as possible. There will be guidelines to ensure that a reasonable percentage of the residences will be open to those individuals, according to Spoelker.

Apple Patch director
Joe Spoelker has been
guiding the effort
since the start.

The first residence, opening this month, will house seven adults with mild to moderate mental retardation. There is also a separate living area for a home coordinator who will be hired to provide support to occupants. Lisa Lee recently joined the Apple Patch staff as the residential/supported employment manager. Lee’s responsibilities will include screening home coordinator applicants. Responsible, caring and patient individuals will be selected to fill these positions as they become available. Home coordinators will help occupants adjust to independent living, help them understand appropriate behavior and assistant them when necessary. Residents will do their own laundry and prepare their own meals.
In addition to housing, Apple Patch will provide many options to residents including vocational training for jobs on and off campus, social events, personalized health and fitness plans, performing arts activities and multi-faith worship. A community center will serve as the hub, said Spoelker, and will provide a gathering place for activities and a nondenominational chapel will be built on site for community worship. Additionally, plans for on-site greenhouses and a retail outlet will provide vocational opportunities for residents. It is the combination of residential, recreational, social, vocational and spiritual opportunities that provides the overall advantage to residents, advocates say.
Last year, Apple Patch purchased the former Kentucky Tae Kwon Do building at 7408 Hwy. 329, just south of the community entrance. Carolina Door leases half of the building. The remaining half houses administrative offices and the vocational center. Jan Penick is the director of finance and administration.
Day programs are conducted in the vocational center where individuals are given job training and opportunities. Alan Boeschel, vocational centermanager, trains day program participants and assists with an paper recycling program through which individuals make molded paper art for sale to the public. As part of the day program, participant Alex Auerbach created a birdhouse design which was made into a mold. Auerbach will be one of the first residents of Margaret’s House, named after the late mother of one of the community’s early sponsors, Richard Jebber, CEO of Mattress Warehouse.
Day programs, which are open to residents and nonresidents of Apple Patch, will continue to be a part of the community’s service to the area. Program participants that are between ages 18 to 21 must have a high school diploma or certificate of completion, said Spoelker.
Another vocational opportunity was provided when Apple Patch purchased Mary’s Candies nearly three years ago. The wholesale candy business, located in Jeffersontown, Ky., specializes in decorative molded chocolates. The company not only provides job opportunities but also spreads the message of Apple Patch, said Spoelker.
Spoelker said that the Apple Patch Community will provide another option for people with disabilities and their families.
Apple Patch is looking for businesses in Oldham County to provide additional employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. “The advantage to employers is that they will have an individual who is going to be with them for a long time,” Spoelker said.
Spoelker said that every layer of the Oldham County community, from county government to citizens and businesses, has been very welcoming to the Apple Patch Community. Brooks May, Apple Patch board member and Chief Operating Officer of Old Colony Insurance in Crestwood, said that Apple Patch offers a new dimension to Oldham County and the entire Louisville metropolitan area. “It’s a much needed service,” May said. Old Colony, and other businesses and organizations in the area have been very support of Apple Patch, Spoelker said. GE donated appliances and Phillip-Morris donated flooring for Margaret’s House. Other supporters include Brown-Foreman, the Kentucky Colonels, Warehouser Co., Old Colony Insurance, Torbitt & Castleman and Boy Scout Troop 341 headed by Andy McClure.
To further its goals, Apple Patch is conducting the “Building the Dream Campaign,” to raise the $5.1 million necessary for the completion of Phase One of the project. Phase One includes construction of three residences, a multi-purpose building or community center and a multi-faith gathering place.
Apple Patch will hold their biggest fundraiser of the year, the 6th Annual Apple Patch Community Hat Affair & Dinner fro 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, April 14. Tickets for the event, which will be held at The Olmsted in Louisville, are $60. Table sponsorships are available. The evening will include hors d’oeuvres and dinner, a silent auction and a live auction of designer hats, a hand-stitched quilt, Florida vacations and many other items. The Hat Affair and Dinner is sponsored by Guess.

• For more information call (502) 657-0103 or look for additional information online at www.applepatch.org.

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