A Special Organization for Special People
by Jim Hurlbert - Angels' Place First Board Chairman
Where does one begin with the history of an organization but from the beginning. Prior to incorporation which was September 25, 1992, there were countless hours of discussion to determine how we could serve our brothers and sisters who had various levels of disability. Actually who we would serve was a relatively easy question to answer. We would look to those individuals whose parents or other caregivers were reaching an age when it would be difficult if not impossible to care for them. Normally, but not always, the age of the person with a developmental disability would be in their late 20’s or older.
Now for the key question. How will we care for them? Back in the early 1990’s the State of Michigan was changing from an “institutional caregiver” to one of a more individualized system. Angels’ Place briefly considered grouping homes together but was discouraged to do so by the State. The concept, and a good one, in my opinion, was to find a home in a residential setting and place four to six individuals in that home. A federal law, which was passed in the 1980’s, legislated that local ordinances could not preclude six or fewer non-related persons living together.
When we purchased a home, Angels’ Place representatives would meet with neighbors and associations to educate them on who we were and what they could expect from their new neighbors. Initially there was apprehension, but I’m pleased that after meeting their new neighbors not only were the concerns dissipated but neighborly relationships were established. Over the past 19 years we have opened 19 homes and apartment programs."
Approximately seven years ago, Angels’ Place Board of Directors decided it was time to reach out to other individuals on our waiting list who might not be ready to enter our residential program but still would like to enjoy going to ball games, bowling, participating in prayer groups and the like. Accordingly, we began our Abundant Life program. While all enjoy the programs and interrelationship with our residents and staff, if also serves as an integration or first step to eventually becoming a full time resident when the need presents itself.
We are now considering a new challenge; one that is prevalent worldwide – the aging population. Frequently, individuals with developmental disabilities will ‘age’ more quickly than someone without some of the syndromes. We attempt to serve them in their present family setting, however, there have been and will continue to be situations when in the best interest of the individual, he or she may need to be placed in an environment more capable of providing the necessary care. In the few situations we have experienced to date, we have had to transfer the person to another organization. When this happens we stay close to the individual so Angels’ Place continues to be a friend and support in their lives. We are considering the possibility of providing our own homes for those that would require more of an assisted care life but would not be what is considered ‘nursing care’.
I have had the good fortune to be a part of Angels’ Place from the very beginning. From over 19 years ago when we sat around Terry and Loretta Nagle’s family room scratching our collective heads trying to determine how we could serve the hundreds of families that were experiencing anguish because they did not know what would become of their loved one, to participating in a Board meeting at Dickinson, Wright’s law offices (Pat Ledwidge and Deborah Grace have provided pro bono legal advice for the entire time of Angels’ Place existence) with over 25 committed and talented members of the Board. I was honored to have been the first Chairman and to have sat on the Board for most of the past 19 years. But as all those who have served with me will attest to, the greatest thrill is to see the spiritual and fulfilling life that all we serve are enjoying. Our friends with developmental disabilities do not realize it but they provide us with much more than we give them.
I would be remiss if I did not congratulate our staff. They are ahead of the curve when it comes to our industry. They refuse to become complacent and continually are studying and updating themselves with the best ways to direct and lead. Our caregivers clearly are the heart and soul of our organization. They are the essential part of the Angels’ Place family. Day in and day out they are there with our residents, feeding them, dispensing medications, changing beds, doing wash, etc. etc. Spend 10 minutes observing the running of a house or watching a softball game and you will know that our caregivers love the men and women of Angels’ Place, and love they should, because they love all of us.
I feel confident with the new generation of Board and committee members, that there will be a seamless and smooth transition at Angels’ Place and the next 19 years will even be better than the first.
As we say on our coins “In God We Trust”!