On hot summer day, Congressman Darren Soto recently made his way to Bishop Grady Villas (BGV) in St. Cloud. The tour, led by joyful resident Carolina C., revealed the community’s accomplishments and challenges.
Carolina led Congressman Soto and a small team from BGV around the property July 20th while listing things she loves about living there – her own room, her friends, her job at Chick-Fil-A. Soto is the state’s representative for District 9, which includes St. Cloud.
Executive Director, Kevin Johnson, is grateful for moments like these. He prays they help those in Congress better understand the work being done on behalf of people with disabilities and that they will be inspired to enact legislation that supports vulnerable individuals.
“At Bishop Grady Villas, we feel it is important to keep legislators informed,” explained Johnson.
Carolina kept the tour moving as Johnson and his team highlighted their all-new Project SEARCH programs that assist high school students with disabilities gain competitive employment. It’s a fast-growing, successful partnership with Osceola and Seminole County schools, the Gaylord Palms, Florida Hospital and the Hilton in Altamonte Springs.
“We talked about how our model offers unprecedented independence and choice in a supportive environment that provides opportunities for meaningful friendships with other residents as well as community members both at Bishop Grady Villas and in the surrounding community,” said Johnson.
The visit also allowed the team to communicate challenges communities like BGV face, such as the current rate for reimbursement to providers, which has seen a consistent decrease over the past 14 years. “This creates a dilemma for both families and providers in both finding and retaining qualified workers who are called to our ministry to provide direct care to the vulnerable individuals we serve,” noted Johnson. “This has led to a true crisis that is threatening the well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout our state.”
Congressman Soto’s time in Washington, DC has attuned him to the needs of individuals with disabilities. He clearly heard Johnson’s case for future funding and expansion. There are currently 100 individuals on the BGV waiting list.
“Bishop Grady Villas is a kind and idyllic place,” said Congressman Soto. “This is a caring community that allows its residents to grow and live more independent, fruitful lives. For these reasons, I’m proud to support them.”
The representative pledged to support BGV in exploring how HUD (Housing and Urban Development) funds could be drawn down to support future capital expansion. The congressman also plans to endorse current employment programs and is considering internship opportunities in his own offices for BGV residents.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – July 25, 2018
Learn more about Bishop Grady Villas at www.bishopgradyvillas.org.