By Barb Arland-Fye
CLINTON — Shaking handmade maracas, playing plastic recorders and singing joyful songs, supporters of The Arch/L’Arche Clinton celebrated the opening of an accessible house where four older adults with intellectual disabilities live.
Keith Behne, Bob Wessels Mary Pat Buckman and Lorraine Weise love their spacious, eight-bedroom home on Clinton’s north end. From her bedroom window, Lorraine can even see a sliver of the Mississippi River.
“The Arch’s plan to design and build an accessible home for our aging core members (residents) became a reality for us,” said Keith Kalaukoa, The Arch’s community leader. “We’ve named it Arch IV, so we’re really creative,” he joked about the fourth house in The Arch Clinton community. Altogether, 18 core members belong to The Arch, living in one of the four houses or an apartment.
Clinton Franciscan Sister Marjorie Wisor founded The Arch in 1974 in a house near downtown Clinton donated by the local Presbyterian Church. She was inspired by Jean Vanier who founded L’Arche, an international federation whose members with and without intellectual disabilities share life in community.
Most of The Arch’s core members are middle aged and older. Issues that accompany the aging process, especially mobility and safety, have become pressing concerns. Because Clinton has a shortage of existing accessible houses, The Arch launched a capital campaign to build a house, Kalaukoa said.
The Arch got a good deal on a hilly lot, but the $425,000 house had to be built to conform to it. Both the main and lower levels have walk-in entrances. The eight bedrooms accommodate the housemates, assistants and room for future core members.
While the house goes a long way toward meeting the physical needs of the four housemates, it needs an elevator, at an estimated cost of $42,000, to allow full access between levels. For example, Lorraine, who uses a walker, had to enter the house from the lower level so she could attend the Aug. 1 celebration. To return to the main level where the kitchen, living room and her bedroom are located, she had to be taken by car to that entrance.
Guests at the celebration included board members, volunteers, assistants (who share or have shared daily life with the core members), chamber representatives, family and friends.
Sister Anne Martin Phelan, OSF, who serves on The Arch’s board of directors, began volunteering with the community years ago when she moved back to Clinton. “I got to know the core members and assistants. It’s just a warm, affectionate group, very accepting,” said Sr. Phelan, who recently was elected president of the Clinton Franciscans.
Peggy McClure of Clinton, who served as an assistant and now as a frequent volunteer, said she helped spiff up the new home for the celebration. “It’s a welcoming, comfortable home that they (core members) can call home and feel comfortable in and it’s decorated so nicely.”
Displayed on one wall on the main level, just off the kitchen, is a framed collage dedicated to the memory of Bertie Roberts, a longtime housemate of Keith (Behne), Bob and Mary Pat who died March 31 — moving day.
Bertie and Mary Pat were especially close and shared a room in their old house. When Mary Pat sees a photo of Bertie she says, “Bertie, later,” noted Marcy Trimble, The Arch’s assistant community leader.
Barb Kinkaid, a retired teacher, began her relationship with The Arch as a student volunteer 38 years ago. Since then she’s served in a variety of capacities, including as board president. Now she’s the quality improvement specialist for The Arch.
The opening of Arch IV means “needs for our aging core members are being met,” Barb said. “They’ve added their personal touches in their rooms. Mary Pat has her Beatles, Keith has his John Deere tractors, Bob has his sports and Lorraine has her dolls.”
Each core member has goals and responsibilities. “We want to sustain that ‘caring’ part of their lives,” added Barb.
Arch IV house coordinator Beth Kerkove describes her job as a calling, with its share of joys and challenges. “My job,” she said, “is to maintain the rhythm of the house.”
Fundraising for Arch IV continues
Nearly half the cost of Arch IV, an accessible house designed to accommodate the needs of aging individuals with intellectual disabilities, has been collected through ongoing fundraising efforts, said Marcy Trimble, The Arch’s assistant community leader. “We’ve been receiving donations from businesses and we’ve been doing fundraising events and applying for grants,” she added. “We also are able to take donations online at www.larcheclinton.org.”
In addition, a dollar campaign is being held at a local business every month for the next year. Proceeds go to The Arch, Come Build With Us Campaign.
For more information, call The Arch at (563) 243-9035.