A Welcoming Spirit

Photograph by Austin R. Hermann

In June, six metro Detroit women are eagerly awaiting their move into a new home in Farmington Hills.

Call it a kinder, gentler house — kind, because its configuration is mindful of developmental disabilities, and gentle, because it goes easy on the environment.

The residence, a group home on a quiet side street in Farmington Hills, was built using green-building techniques that were made affordable by local giving.

The home is one of 20 across southeast Michigan run by JARC (formerly known as The Jewish Association for Retarded Citizens). The 40-year-old Farmington Hills-based organization, now known by its acronym, provides residential services for adults, as well as a wide variety of support to families who have a developmentally disabled child living with them at home.

“It’s the first home that we’ve built from the ground up,” says Rick Loewenstein, CEO of JARC. The four-bedroom, single-story brick house has bamboo floors and blinds, geo-thermal heat, high-efficiency appliances and lighting, eco-friendly paint, a deck made of recycled material, and native landscaping. JARC’s clients (about 85 percent of whom are Jewish) represent a range of diagnoses, from autism to cerebral palsy to Down syndrome. “Some are in wheelchairs, some quadriplegic, but we like to say they have a range of abilities, because they do,” Loewenstein says.

The new green-home residents, who vary in approximate age from 40 to 70, are expected to relocate from another JARC-operated address some time this month. “They’re kept together, because they’ve been living together for a long time; they’re like family,” Loewenstein says. “And they’re thrilled and excited to be moving in.”

John McCaffrey, JARC’s director of community support, is also happy. “Two and a half years ago, a team got together to talk about what today’s group homes should be. We just threw out ideas, and now I’m standing in the middle of that dream,” McCaffrey says while surveying the expansive kitchen with granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and the easy-to-access prep counter, microwave oven, and sink.

The eco-friendly home was made possible by several significant supporters, including Barbara and Irving Nusbaum and their family; the United Way for Southeastern Michigan; and The Frankel Organization, which served as the builder.

The finished results are extra sweet, Loewenstein says, because the house acknowledges that JARC clients share the same passions as those with no disabilities. “Our residents like to bowl, go to movies, celebrate birthdays, enjoy friends, go out to dinner,” he says. And, like all of us, they appreciate a roof over their heads and a place to call home. If it’s cozy and eco-friendly, all the better. b

Information: 248-538-6611, jarc.org.