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Photo by Katie Turpen.
Bluff Park Promise Home Tom Duley
Tom Duley, minister of missions and congregational care for Bluff Park United Methodist Church, stands at the front door of the Church’s Promise Home.
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Photo courtesy of Sherri Van Pelt.
Bluff Park Promise Home table
The dining room is the heart of the room, where residents gather for meals and to share the highlights of their day.
For the congregation of Bluff Park United Methodist, opportunities are ripe to be the change. It’s a perspective that has propelled the church’s drive to conceptualize and bring to fruition the Bluff Park Promise Home, a 4,000-square-foot, six-bedroom facility, located behind the church, that provides permanent housing for six adults with autism.
The home is managed by Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center. Five of the six residents have already been selected, with a sixth expected to move in by the end of the calendar year. And after months of planning and preparation, the facility is finally taking on a family vibe all its own.
“Whenever a child is diagnosed with a disability, parents and grandparents wonder, ‘What will happen when we are not here?’” said church lay leader Bill Pearson. “For these six folks, we have cleared most of that anxiety away because we, the church, along with Glenwood, have provided them a nice home for the rest of their lives. They will be cared for, and they will be loved.”
Pearson is an instrumental player in the process and a longtime advocate for autism awareness since his grandson, Henley, was born with autism in 2000. Also on Glenwood’s board of directors, he acknowledges that while there are many unmet needs of adults living with autism, this is a small, and highly replicable, first step.
“You can’t focus on what we can’t do,” he said. “With the Promise Home, we have started with six. I believe in 10 years, there will be many, many more churches in Alabama that will have accomplished what we’ve done here.”
On the day of the ribbon-cutting this past June, Austin, one of the residents, greeted everyone at the front door with an enthusiastic invitation: “Come on! Let me show you my room.” Meanwhile, residents Monika and Ramona were most interested in closet space. All were proud and have taken to the task of decorating their new residence with spirit.
“It is so touching to see the pride that Austin has in his room, and to see their overall eagerness at sharing this place with the people that come into their life,” said Sherri Van Pelt, vice president of development and communications for Glenwood. “On a recent visit I made to the home, it really struck me to see place mats all around the dining room table. It was so clear to me that this is their family table, where they gather and talk about their day.”
An additional binding agent to that sense of family is the home’s close connection to the Bluff Park United Methodist community of faith. In anticipation of the ribbon-cutting, church members hosted a shower where members of the congregation showed up with newly purchased gifts, cookware and other items that would help the residents create their new home.
Under the leadership of the church’s former senior pastor, Reid Crotty, along with new Senior Pastor Mike Holley and Tom Duley, church members have embraced the facility as an extension of the greater church family.
“We hope there will be families touched by autism who come here to interact and worship with our community, even if they don’t have connections to the residents in the house,” Pearson said. “The bottom line is that adults with autism are an underserved community. We hope that we can build a reputation for serving to many more adults with autism than we have the capacity for in the Promise Home.”