A Place to Call Home
When Gary and Shouna Olson began planning for their son’s future, they found nothing in the state that met their desire: a Christ-centered group home. The Olson family attends Henderson Hills Baptist Church where Preston, an 18-year-old young man with Down syndrome, is involved in numerous activities. He is also active in the community.
“I want Preston to live his life fully and have activities the same as now, not in an environment in which he is unaccustomed,” Shouna said.
In doing research, the Olsons found they were not alone in their venture. It is estimated that more than 15,000 adults with special needs live in Oklahoma. They also found other parents in the area who shared their values as well as a dream for a faith-based adult group home.
“Sometimes jobs, friends and activities have to be created,” Shouna said.
The Olsons met with parents, professionals and other interested individuals to form a non-profit organization called SNAC — Special Needs Adult Community. They set up a board of directors, which meets monthly, and created a mission statement: “To provide a Christ-centered community where adults with special needs can live and thrive within an environment guided by the principles of the Bible and Christ-centered leadership.”
Several members of the organization visited group homes and adult communities all over Oklahoma and the nation, hoping to find a suitable model on which to build in central Oklahoma. They found it in Brookwood, a unique, special-needs community in Brookshire, Texas. The Brookwood Community provides educational, vocational, residential and recreational services.
Not only does it serve individuals with special needs, but it also serves the entire community. It brings people from all walks of life to the businesses inside the facility, making Brookwood a profitable venture. It has a gift shop, which sells decorative artwork created by the residents, and a greenhouse, which sells volumes of poinsettias at Christmas time. It even boasts a four-star restaurant where reservations are a must.
SNAC plans to “model” the Texas community and, like Brookwood, it will be supported and funded through private donations from individuals and corporate sponsorships in lieu of government funding. SNAC desires to be visible in the community by providing services and products that attract people to the campus and impact this area of Oklahoma.
“It will be a win-win situation for both the residents of SNAC and the entire community,” Gary Olson said. The general public will be offered the opportunity to shop, dine and even be employed at SNAC, and residents will continue integrating into the community through jobs and social activities.
And though SNAC has not yet broken ground, its founders have a clear vision of the future. Once they acquire land for the project, they will begin construction on two separate group homes: one for men and one for women. At this point, the plan is to have eight adults with special needs per cottage, along with house parents.
Jean Leger, a member of the board of directors, envisions SNAC as a warm home and community environment for disabled adults, one that provides life-long, holistic services. He also sees it as a way of allowing people outside of SNAC to participate within the SNAC community alongside disabled individuals.
Janis Ricks, also a member of the board of directors, said, “As Christians and God-followers, we should take care of special-needs adults as well as other people in need, as mentioned in the Bible.”
At this point, SNAC’s greatest need is for property on which to build the adult community. The board of directors is hoping for at least a 40-acre tract of land.
“We need a major donor to make a substantial donation to catapult SNAC. It could be money or land,” said Ricks, adding that she believes many people would like to help but are not yet aware of the project.
“We need both large and small donors — individual and corporate,” Shouna said. “We have several individuals with special needs interested and ready to move in. The groundwork has been laid and many resident applications have been received. We are definitely ready to make this happen.”
The organization welcomes help on its volunteer-based committees, such as fundraising, grant writing and web development, along with office help, phone assistance and prayer partners. SNAC is a 501(C)3 organization and accepts tax-deductible donations.