Bishop Grady Villas began as an idea of Sr. Elizabeth Marie Stoup, a Sister of St. Joseph of St. Augustine and principal of Morning Star School in Orlando for children with disabilities. Sr. Elizabeth saw many of her students achieve amazing milestones at school only to graduate to a life of sitting at home without the opportunity to work or have a meaningful day. Sister began to dream of a residential community where her students could have the support they needed to live as independently as possible while also experiencing responsibility. To accomplish this, Sister gathered a group of dedicated volunteers together who were committed to making Sister’s dream a reality.
As the third Bishop of Orlando, Bishop Norbert Dorsey participated in discussions about the possibility of a residential community rooted in our Catholic faith for adults with disabilities, but the real moment of grace arrived after the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. The mother of a child diagnosed with Down syndrome shared with the bishop that she had just been diagnosed with cancer and asked him, “Who will take care of my child when I am no longer able?” It was at that moment Bishop Dorsey realized it was time to move forward with Bishop Grady Villas. Bishop Dorsey procured land that would help the organization fulfill its unique mission. The ideal location had to be in a residential area near a Catholic Church for spiritual and physical support, and within close proximity to local businesses and a bus line so residents could pursue employment and be active citizens of their community. This location was found in St. Cloud, on 11 acres next door to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
After a capital campaign, in which all parishes of the Diocese pledged their support, Bishop Grady Villas opened its doors to our first two residents on January 1, 2004. In 2008, Bishop Grady Villas expanded its services to include Employment Services. These services assist jobseekers with disabilities, who reside throughout Central Florida, in acquiring and maintaining competitive and customized employment.