Disability Ministries will be an active part of each local church’s ministry. Local churches will recognize that Jesus, Himself, set the example of Disability Ministry in His earthly ministry. Realizing that more than 20% of the population are people with disabilities, will be a motivating factor for these churches.
The Conference Disability Ministry team sees its mission as making a difference in the world as disciples of Jesus Christ reaching out and ministering to people with disabilities. We believe that our Mission holds with the Annual Conference’s priorities of Leadership for 21st Century and of Empowering a New Generation of believers.
(Thanks to Linda Holland, Developmental Director for Promise Homes, for submitting this article!)
In the early 1990s, several parents gathered to pick up their special needs children from camp at Sumatanga. As they waited, the conversation turned to what would happen when as parents they could no longer care for their children. From that discussion, Promise Homes was born.
Established as United Methodist Residential Alternatives in 1994, Promise Homes provides care for intellectually disabled adults throughout north Alabama. With six homes in Decatur, three in Gadsden and a new home being built on the campus of Bluff Park United Methodist Church, Promise Homes provides both residential services and care along with day services at an activity center in Decatur. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Promise Homes is also an Advance Special of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, Fund #142.
By living in a stable family setting, residents thrive in an atmosphere of love, respect and dignity. “At Promise Homes, my brother is a member of a real family and lives in a real home,” notes Donna McAnnally who also serves on Promise Homes’ Emeritus Board.
“David has found his song again. It is wonderful to know David is cared for in every way possible, and he is happy. Our parents died years ago, and I don’t know how I would care for him without Promise Homes,” remarked McAnnally.
The men and women living in Promise Homes value their independence and are eager to become more self-sufficient. The staff encourages them in their pursuit of that goal. Many family members note an increased sense of responsibility and higher self-esteem than they ever thought possible for their loved one. The foundation of that success is the caring family setting Promise Homes provides.
“My son, Lane, has a job, friends and a social life. Promise Homes provides Lane the kind of place most parents of special people like Lane can only dream about,” said Carol Taylor.
Currently, more than 3,000 wait on state placement lists for services such as Promise Homes provides. Because many Promise Homes residents receive Medicaid reimbursements for their care, the recent and proposed reductions in this funding by the state requires Promise Homes to seek increased support from private sources such as churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, businesses and civic groups.
“Promise Homes has always worked to provide more than just basic care,” noted executive director, Rod Moss. “We are tightening our belts, but want to continue to provide activities to enrich the lives of our residents. As an organization, we are so thankful for the support we receive from churches, groups and individuals,” remarked Moss.
One of Promise Homes’ partners in ministry, Bluff Park United Methodist Church in Birmingham, is exploring a new model of care with the organization. “Not only did the church donate the land for the Promise Home, they established a foundation to oversee the fundraising for the building of the home,” said Promise Homes board president, James McCrary.
“As the need for neighborhood based services for the intellectually disabled increases, Promise Homes is expanding to meet those needs. Bluff Park United Methodist Church's investment of time, finances and energy in building this Promise Home will benefit the intellectually disabled in the Birmingham area and our state for many years to come," remarked McCrary.
This home will demonstrate a new model of care for intellectually disabled adults as it will be built to specification in a neighborhood, providing a complete personal space for each client while still creating a family-like environment. Further, the house being on the campus of a church will allow easier integration of Promise Homes’ residents into the activities and programs of the church, providing for their social and spiritual needs.
“Our hope is the Bluff Park UMC partnership with Promise Homes will result in similar opportunities for ministry and care here in this area and around the state,” said McCrary.
"This ministry will be a tremendous blessing for families of the intellectually disabled seeking a safe and loving home for their loved ones," said Rev. Tom Duley, Minister of Missions at Bluff Park. "While Promise Homes will staff and manage the home, our congregation will minister to the residents in a variety of ways. Building relationships with the Promise Homes residents will open new avenues of service for our members," noted Duley.
Promise Homes has provided intellectually disabled individuals loving homes and services to support personal growth since 1994. For more information, please visit www.promisehomes.ws, like the organization on Facebook (www.facebook.com/promisehomes) or follow on Twitter, username: PromiseHomes.
Recently, the North Alabama Confernece Disability Ministries entered into a partnership with Merrimack Hall (pictured above) in Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center's mission is to provide educational and performance opportunities to Huntsville's established and emerging performers. Merrimack Hall brings national and international performing artists to the venue, enhancing the cultural offerings of our city.
Since opening in 2007, Merrimack Hall has provided more than $400,000 in outreach to the community, in the form of tickets to the underserved, scholarships to master classes and workshops, resources to other local nonprofit groups, and the Johnny Stallings Arts Program for children and teens with disabilities.
As part of our partnership, we are featuring events at Merrimack Hall that are offered for people with disabilities and made a donation to their Johnny Stallings Art Program. In return, Merrimack Hall is offering United Methodist children and teens the opportunity to take part in the programs they offer. The summer camp for 2012 will be a unique arts half-day camp for children ages 3 through 12. Camp Merrimack is open to children with special needs including Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, autism and more.
Classes will include music, theatre, dance and visual art. With their positive approach, engaging philosophy and 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio, the overall experience is different from any other. Camp Merrimack provides students with opportunities to build social skills and creates an environment where they are sure to succeed!
In 2012, two sessions of Camp Merrimack will be offered. Classes are limited to 15 children per age group and spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Children ages 3-7 will attend camp from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and children ages 8-12 will attend camp from 1 to 4 p.m.
Merrimack Hall’s website asks that parents of children hoping to attend the summer camp contact Claire Lindsay, program coordinator, for questions about the Camp Merrimack program at email@example.com or to inquire about financial scholarships. Or, you may contact, our North Alabama Conference Disability Ministries Convenor, Deb Wade, to help you obtain a scholarship to attend. Part of the partnership with Merrimack Hall includes a promise that United Methodist children ages 3-12 who wish to attend Camp Merrimack will be able to do so as long as space allows.
Below you will find another wonderful opportunity for our United Methodist youth and adults with disabilities (ages 13 and up). For more information, contact Kristen Wilson at Merrimack Hall or Deb Wade (North Alabama Conference Disability Ministries Convenor – contact information below).
In our efforts to better follow the example of Jesus, we want to make sure that our United Methodist members in North Alabama with disabilities know that they are welcome at Annual Conference. The Annual Conference planning team is working with the Conference Disability Ministries Team to offer accommodations when possible. These include accessible parking, a sign language interpreter, hearing assistance devices, and extra-large print handouts.
If you, or a visitor attending Annual Conference with you need accommodations please indicate your special needs through the online reservations form at www.northalabamaumc.org/ac12reservations.
During Conference, the Conference Disability Ministries team will also have a help booth near the Registration Team on the first floor of Norton Center. For more information contact North Alabama Conference Disability Ministries Team Convener Deb Wade at (256) 778-7783 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Any church with an active Disability Ministries can send their information to their District Director of Disability Ministries. We will then contact you for more information for an article and for pictures. Our next newsletter will be the July/August edition. Information for the March/April edition should be sent to the appropriate District Director no later than JUNE 10, 2012.
Please remember also that EVERY LOCAL CHURCH is to have an annual disAbility Awareness Sunday. Also, part of the church’s Charge Conference paperwork is to be the annual Accessibility Audit. For help with either of these, please contact your District Director or Deb Wade. We would love to help you in any way we can.
Deb Wade - 62 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7783; email@example.com
Conference Spiritual Guide
Celia Vest - 62 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7633; firstname.lastname@example.org
Central District (Co-Chairs)
JoAnne Minnitt - 16276 AL Hwy 91, Hanceville, AL 35077; (256)352-4401; email@example.com
Earlene Johnson - 13455 AL Hwy 91, Hanceville, AL 35077; (256)287-0959
Joyce French - 25 Timothy Trace, Anniston, AL 36207; (256)237-4082; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Lakes District
Rev. Diane Housler - 415 N 32nd ST, Gadsden, AL 35904; (256)295-1365; email@example.com
Deb Wade - 962 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7783; firstname.lastname@example.org
Northwest District (Temporarily)
Celia Vest - 962 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7633; email@example.com
South Central District
Jennifer McCroskey - 3556 Spring Valley Court, Birmingham, AL 35223; (205)298-7706; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Mike Samuels - 726 S. Lafayette ST., Lafayette AL 36862; (334)864-9478; email@example.com
Rev. Wade Langer - 2130 Paul W. Bryant Drive, Suite B, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401; (205)752-0414; firstname.lastname@example.org