By Amy Schechter

Watching your children develop into individuals and leave the nest is exciting, but can be a bit frightening for any parent. The challenge multiplies exponentially when your child has special needs, yet has blossomed into an adult with his/her own dreams. Therefore, the idea for New Horizons Group Homes, Inc. developed in 1992 when a group of parents, teachers, and friends of the Special Education Department of First Baptist Church of Brandon recognized a need for long-term living facilities to serve adults with developmental disabilities. Since opening their doors in 1999, the residence has grown from one to two homes and has assisted many deserving adults and their families. New Horizons currently houses fourteen residents, many of whom are competitively employed in the community or attend structured day activities.

Yet there is a need for more space, and this year New Horizons is overjoyed to report they have broken new ground on a third residence to accommodate six new occupants.

Yvonne Shelton, the director, understands the challenges facing adults with developmental disabilities and champions the need for a Christian group home that can provide a nurturing and uplifting atmosphere: “We serve a unique population. They are able to experience a feeling of independence while enjoying 24/7 supervision.

This is their forever home.” Shelton explains how the residents are challenged to develop and organize their own activities and are expected to care for their personal needs along with housekeeping.

But ultimately, the need for group homes for adults with developmental disabilities is great. Shelton explains that it can be confusing when persons with disabilities age out of the K-12 education system. There really is not a structured path for parents and those individuals with disabilities to follow. Another goal of New Horizons is to educate families on their options, but the bottom line is that places like New Horizons needs to expand to aid this important segment of our community.

Although a portion of the homes are sustained through monthly payments from the residents’ SSI, Social Security, Med Waiver benefits, and/or wages, donations and fundraising are needed to provide the highest quality of care and expand the kinds of services they offer.

If you missed the New Horizons Annual Barbeque and Silent Auction held on September 24, you can still support their mission. Visit www.newhorizonshomes.org or call 571-2690. It is located at 109 E. Clay Ave., Brandon, 33510.