MARSHFIELD – Everyone Needs a Community (ENC, Inc.), a local nonprofit, is working to build an autism-friendly, affordable intergenerational community in Marshfield.
“(ENC) is made up of family and friends of people who have developmental disabilities, particularly autism,” said founder, Kathy Meyer. “We are people who recognize the unique challenges of autism qualities who wish to create a new model of community.
“Autism is a whole different way of seeing and experiencing the world. Each person with autism is different, with different sensitivities and different needs. Cause and effect type thinking can be weak in autism, instead there is a tendency for associating two things to go together.”
Meyer said that the idea for the community came from several inspirations.
“At ‘A Night to Shine’ event, which is a prom for people with developmental disabilities initially promoted by the Tim Tebow foundation, I experienced a community that came together for a lovely evening full of acceptance and reverence for these special people. I was then consumed with, ‘How can I grow this?’ Kathy explained. “The second piece of the puzzle came when I saw an article about ‘Treehouse Community’ in Easthampton, MA, that created a community where they brought seniors together with families adopting children who have experienced foster care.”
Organization members have visited the community and three individuals have worked on site duplication to create a model for autism.
Meyer knows firsthand that there is a need for this type of model, as her son, Matthew, has autism, and she has seen the challenges that the 25-year-old faces trying to live on his own.
“As family and friends of those with developmental disabilities, we recognize how much better life would be for our ‘Opportunity Generation’ (isolated seniors) and our special people with developmental disabilities to have a community that matches the needs of the individual with the passions of each individual,” she explained.
“We see our venture as a needed new model suitable for some people with autism and many in the Opportunity Generation to live an active healthy life. Both groups are at risk for boredom, loneliness, and depression, which deteriorate health.”
The group plans to build a cottage court type of facility, similar to the Treehouse Community.
“This arrangement will suit many of our Opportunity Generation as well as those with autism. We are working on affordable housing, as that is the need, not only for these groups but is a need in the Marshfield community,” she added.
Meyer added that this type of facility would not be a claimable service, so the organization will need to seek out help from the public, industry, grants, and foundations to support it.
Facility planners already have a site in mind and intend to apply for tax credits in the fall of 2020, hoping for a ground breaking in 2021-22.
A “Friendraiser/Fundraiser” will be held on Feb. 1, 7-10 p.m., at the Eagles Club, 1104 S. Oak Ave., Marshfield. The event will feature music by The Pointless Brothers, raffles, and more information on the facility and autism.