Families to convert old winery to help disabled

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WEST BRANCH, Iowa (AP) — Four Iowa families have purchased an old winery where they plan to hold enrichment programs for their children and young adults with intellectual disabilities.

The rural, 10-acre former home of Wallace Winery, which closed in 2009, has a house, a barn, another building and land for gardening and outdoor activities. The families are planning to eventually convert a farmhouse on the property into a residential facility for young adults when they're ready to leave their parents' residence.

They're laying the groundwork for what they're calling the Village Community, for people with intellectual disabilities to learn, work, and one day, live together, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported (http://icp-c.com/1sz3nix ).

Ann Brownsberger said the families got the idea for the Village Community last year after meeting at a seminar in Coralville about guardianship for adults with disabilities. The families gathered at a restaurant to discuss how their children would be cared for after their parents were gone.

"We were looking for a model where we could continue to be that primary caregiver and protector, but we wouldn't be doing it on our own because we're acutely aware that we're not going to live forever," Brownsberger said. "Our children will mostly likely outlive us, so it was really important to us that they be cared for beyond our lifetime."

The families bought the property in August and will begin their first enrichment programming in October. They plan to start with a music therapy class. Plans for future programs include art, dancing and gardening.

Joe and Deb Blair, whose 16-year-old son has an intellectual disability, moved their family from Coralville to the farmhouse to serve as on-site caretakers.

Their son's limited speech and other challenges make it hard for him to spend time with others his age, Joe Blair said.

"He has some issues that make it difficult to go over to someone's house, or have someone over to our house, so we've become very isolated," Blair said. "And here we are, suddenly in a group. It's amazing."


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

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