A small group of individuals with special needs will soon be living alone for the first time.
A dozen clients of A New Leaf — a Broken Arrow nonprofit that helps improve the lives of adults with developmental disabilities and autism — are planning to settle in a new large-scale farming community, or ” agrihood”, currently under construction in Owasso.
A New Leaf, established in 1979, provides clients with essential life skills and job training through horticultural therapy, as well as community-based job placement and residential services.
The organization’s new “agrihood,” called The Village, is a $20 million development on 50 acres southeast of North 86th Street and Memorial Drive that opened in the fall of 2020. .
When fully constructed, the site will consist of 14 different living units built around a 2-acre farm, as well as a cafeteria, recreation center, administrative quarters, maintenance facility and a number of greenhouses to cultivate vegetation – all conveniences that Lindsey Stewart, director of philanthropic resources at A New Leaf, attributes to the continued success of her clients.
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“We see it as our responsibility to ensure people with developmental disabilities and autism have resources, and that, to us, means safe and affordable housing,” Stewart said. “Just because a person is born the way they are doesn’t mean they should be prevented from having opportunities like everyone else.”
The Village’s first group of clients (currently nine people) are expected to move into a semi-detached apartment complex as part of Phase 1 of the project in early May.
The transition will give newcomers the opportunity to better learn and adopt six essential life skills, including: finances (basic budgeting, grocery shopping); home security (emergency numbers, weather drills); housework/cleaning (laundry, dishes); kitchen/kitchen safety (use of appliances, preparation of meals); personal care (hygiene, mental/physical health); and self-help (medication and doctor visits).
Megan Eisenhauer, a mentor client of A New Leaf’s Autism Works program, for example, is among the small group of people preparing to move to the Village and eager to venture outside of Broken Arrow’s headquarters. organisation.
“Doing a variety of different things, living on your own…it’s a whole new experience,” said Eisenhauer, who makes pottery bowls and flower arrangements for A New Leaf. “It’s going to be scary, a new adjustment…I can’t wait to get to do it myself.”
Casey Durbin, another potential resident of the new community of Owasso, puts in long hours at A New Leaf’s five greenhouses and 3-acre Blooming Acres farm, where he learns gardening which helps develop his craft and increases his independence.
“We put soil in the pots and then we put seeds in them,” said Durbin, who is preparing to bring his planting skills to the Village, in a previous story. “I learned to harvest watermelons, cucumbers, cantaloupe, corn and broccoli.”
Over the past few years, A New Leaf has made Owasso a hub for its outreach services through horticulture programs like the nonprofit pop-up outside the BattleCreek Church on 86th street, and educational initiatives that teach pre-vocational skills to autistic students at Owasso High School.
Stewart said seeing the organization come full circle with The Village is a remarkable opportunity for his organization and the community it serves.
“Raising funds to have it being built and almost complete is really exciting,” said Stewart, “and all of our customers and customer families are very excited that their adult child can live in a place like this.”
For more information on A New Leaf, visit anewleaf.org.