Cabarrus

Methodists join to build a special house

The United Methodist Church had its own version of a house-raising last weekend.

More than 50 volunteers from the Lake Norman area gathered at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius to work on a house for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"We completed framing the entire house in one day," Roy Helm wrote in an email. Helm is president of Wesley Community Development Corp., a nonprofit builder of affordable housing that is working on the house. "It was amazing to watch people who had never worked together come together on a job site and work well as a team."

The house will be overseen by UMAR, a United Methodist organization that is expanding its ministry to special-needs adults in the Lake Norman area.

The group already operates another residence on Mount Zion UMC's property, as well as a group home in Statesville. It will break ground this fall on a set of eight studio apartments on the campus of Huntersville United Methodist.

Formed in 1983, UMAR organized a district in Lake Norman about a year ago because area churches were interested in working with the ministry, said UMAR president Steve Sellers. It operates 23 group homes and six apartments in Western North Carolina.

Sellers said the population of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to grow, in part because of medical advances.

The demand for better levels of community-based service is likewise growing.

"We try to do things in a way that honors choice and independence of the individual," Sellers said.

The house in Cornelius will be UMAR's most independent residential setting. Three people who don't require a live-in staff member or constant supervision will live in the three-bedroom house.

UMAR will help residents learn how to live in the house as if it were their own. They will learn life skills, such as grocery shopping and planning healthy meals.

"They will wrestle with issues of how does the grass get cut and paying bills," Sellers said. "The goal is to train them to the point where they carry on the responsibilities themselves."

The house should be completed this winter, Sellers said. He expects churches that host UMAR residences will get involved with the ministry, getting to know the residents.

The Huntersville project will be a group of studio apartments, each with a bedroom, den and kitchenette. They'll be built in a horseshoe configuration, and a community area will include a full kitchen, laundry area and community room.

With proper support, Sellers said, these adults can be successful in a community. They are not "somehow broken and need to be fixed," he said.

"They are who they are," he said. "The community benefits from their hard work, their good attitudes and having them give back to the community."

For more information about UMAR, visit www.umarinfo.com.

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