The Arc Nature Coast furnishes a number of services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Perhaps the most important is providing spacious and “homey” group homes to these individuals who, for various reasons, do not live with their families.
Four of the homes are located on a thirty-acre wooded tract in the Neff Lake area of eastern Hernando County. Six program participants, along with a Residential Supervisor, share each home. Each has his or her own bedroom. There is a large kitchen, living room, dining area, four bathrooms and a screened-in Florida room. The 3,100 square foot handicapped-accessible homes constructed by Palmwood Builders each cost $350,000 to build and were funded by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
There are Residential Supervisors on hand twenty-four hours a day to clean, cook the meals, assist the residents with their personal needs and also provide a family-like atmosphere.
Ashlea Benward, is one of the Residential Supervisors. The thirty-year-old mother of four school-age children works two different shifts, 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. and 12 midnight to 12 p.m. Although it’s a challenge juggling her own family responsibilities with her Arc Nature Coast “family” responsibilities, she clearly loves her job.
“You have to have compassion and patience. It’s definitely a rewarding job. What I like best is the clients. I love making them happy and seeing them enjoy their house.”
One of the recent projects to improve the area surrounding the homes was to erect two gazebos with picnic tables where the residents can enjoy the outdoors. This was made possible by donations of material and labor from three businesses.
Lowes Home Improvement Store in Brooksville as part of the company’s Lowes Heroes project donated the gazebos, tables, plants, soil and mulch, as well as the sand to level the spots where the gazebos were erected. A number of Lowes’ employees provided the labor. Clyde Daniel Construction donated crushed concrete for the foundations.
Oldcastle Pavers in Tampa donated patio stones and concrete. Several of the company’s employees helped put up the gazebos. All told, the entire project took two days to complete.
Besides the four newly-constructed homes in Brooksville, there are six other group homes located in other areas of Hernando and Pasco counties. Many of the residents have lived in these homes for a long time. One man in his 60’s, who passed away last year, had been a resident for thirty-eight years.
The group homes provide a nurturing atmosphere and a measure of independence to the residents. They have their own bedroom which they can furnish to suit their tastes. Each bedroom has a television, which the resident pays for, while there is a large flat-screen TV in the living room. The kitchens are designed and equipped so that handicapped residents who want to help prepare a meal or snack can do so. The family of an elderly lady who lives in one of the Neff Lake homes commented that her overall health and well-being had improved since she came to live there.
On October 25 at noon there will be a ribbon-cutting and dedication of the Neff Lake Estates homes located at 5283 Neff Lake Road sponsored by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. Refreshments will be served and tours of the campus will be given. The public is invited, but an RSVP is requested. Email Nancy Stubbs, Development Director, at [email protected] to RSVP.
For more information on The Arc Nature Coast go to www.thearc-naturecoast.org or call (352) 544 – 2322, ext.111 or (352) 592 – 5650