Where it All Began

roundPeace of Heart Community Home (a soon to be built residential home for young women with autism in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) was conceived after many years of soul-searching.  My husband, Howard Groshell, and I had seen firsthand the benefits our daughter Gentry (now 20) received from living in a group home with other young women with autism.  

Her behavior was largely contained by behavior strategies and a high staff to resident ratio, but still something missing, we realized the program was lacking “heart”.  No attempts were being made to integrate her or her peers into the community, provide alternate communication strategies or access to faith based or other enrichment opportunities.  In addition, we were keenly aware of the tsunami of young person’s leaving the public education sector and entering adulthood with only limited programming available to adequately fill their days.  The government funding alone will not sufficiently cover the depth of their needs.  

These realities along with our belief in the inherent capabilities, intelligence, and sensitivity of these persons (presumed competence) propelled us to do something about the situation at hand.   A right to communication is essential giving persons with motor planning (dyspraxia) challenges the opportunity for a life of hope where dreams can be shared and intelligence can be uncovered from the often unintentional behaviors that seem to currently define autism.

The formation of Peace of Heart Community (POHC) also stemmed from our participation in our church’s grassroots efforts to start a ministry for persons with special needs. When a person with a disability is ministered to it deeply impacts the family. Thus it quickly became apparent that the entire family unit could be reached through this ministry.  Not only this, but it impacted the person reaching out to meet the need as well.  

At POHC it is our firm beliefs that not only are all persons equal in value to God but also to each other.  There is an interdependence on one another that brings meaning and value to both parties.  We believe life is best lived in a dynamic exchange, not in a relationship where one is viewed as dependent on the other.  The person with special needs is already deeply acquainted with her need for others for her very existence. The need for another person is often not as apparent to the one volunteering or providing the service.  When all persons are aware of the tremendous blessing that comes from serving each other a community is formed.  

This community is what we are striving for at POHC.  To accomplish our goals we will first address the “heart” of the person with autism through our 2 pillars – community (family and community partnerships) and sustainability (our farm and art programs).  Both pillars will enable our model to be a prototype for others to replicate.  Our pillars of community and sustainability under the umbrella of faith and presumed competence will make us a beacon of light to the community we live in and beyond.  It is our sincere hope that you will  join us on this journey to make Peace of Heart Community a reality!

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