In 1971, Handicap Village opened their doors in Clear Lake. Back then, people with disabilities had two options: to be kept at home or put into a state institution. While many parents chose to raise their children on their own, there seemed to be little help or guidance available to families.
And then when the children become adults? The options were even more limited.
The idea behind Handicap Village was to create a small, intimate, community setting where people with disabilities could live. It offered a modest taste of independence while still providing stability and help if and when it was needed.
In the 1980s, Handicap Village began transitioning people into homes. Four or five individuals were placed in each house. Staff would come into the residence and help as needed. Some were more self-sufficient than others, needing minimal assistance. While other residents required round-the-clock care to fit their needs.
Michael Mahaffey began his career with Handicap Village at the young age of twelve. While he is no longer with the organization, he has fond memories of the early years of its existence. “I had no idea what this wonderful organization would evolve into, as an organization as well as for me personally,” he recalls. “I first volunteered, then became employed and, after college, returned for a second stint which lasted 27 years. What I never really considered early in my career is that we would have a child who would receive services.”
In 1994, Handicap Village officially became Opportunity Village. This change was a better representation of the organization. “Handicap” had become such a derogatory word. Instead, “Opportunity” focused on the positive aspects of the organization.
In 2013, the Federal Government found that the small community of homes was not the best place to house people with disabilities. Instead, they should be moved into their own homes in the community of their choice.
Up until this point, it had been the norm to keep people with disabilities “in a bubble” so to speak. Sheltered, hidden away from the rest of the world, continually made to feel as if they were different.
In reality, when the residents moved into their own homes with neighbors, opportunities began to abound. The newly found independence made them feel alive. Like they were just like everyone else.
It was the first step into a new world. One with inclusion at the forefront.
As this process began to take shape in Clear Lake, Opportunity Village found itself, once again, on the cusp of transition. In 2017 they officially became One Vision. The name change was fitting as they offer a diverse range of flexible services designed to support individual needs and life goals.
Their main focus? To help people with disabilities live their best life.
With their residents out in the community, One Vision had done just that.
However, a new issue became prevalent when they looked around at all the empty homes and cottages. What were they going to do with all that unused space?
“Part of their new focus being One Vision included adding new ways to create revenue streams in order to establish income to serve those in need,” states Chief Development Officer, Janet Johnson. “With all the housing issues these days, we knew a senior living facility would be embraced by the community.”
In 2018, they broke ground with the campus redevelopment. The Glen Oaks Community is a premier 55+ community featuring TimberCrest Apartments and The Terraces Townhomes.
While it may seem One Vision has reached peak capacity at this level, they aren’t done.
The newest innovation is to provide residents with even more independence thanks to technology. “We are hoping for our first Tech Homes to be ready in June,” says Johnson. “We plan to add two more each quarter going forward.”
A Tech Home gives One Vision staff the ability to monitor the residence 24/7 without actually having a staff member inside the home the entire time. This gives the resident their independence with a sense of peace, knowing help is always near.
Even with all the changes throughout the years, one thing that has remained is the hope people find through One Vision services. Mahaffey knows this concept well. “Many people have found and continue to find hope through this fine organization,” he said. “People receiving services, families of people services, employees, volunteers, and donors. Hope prevails the test of time and evolution of changes.”
One important addition over the course of One Vision’s lifespan is the addition of the Autism Children’s Center. The Center was founded 10 years ago by a parent of two autistic children in the area who saw a need for this type of service. At that time, parents were left with few options and little hope upon receiving an autism diagnosis. The absence of autism services, especially ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) left families looking toward a bleak future.
As this dream became a reality in North Iowa, it is still the only provider of this type of therapy in the area. They focus on intensive early intervention services for children.
Clinic Director, Laura Korth, states, “Our goal is to help prepare the child to enter group learning as school approaches, build positive behaviors while decreasing maladaptive behaviors, and improve social and communication skills.”
And they hope to continue to bring hope to the community for years to come!
In fact, they have an upcoming fundraiser, the J. Brooks Annual Walk-A-Block for Autism Awareness on Sunday, April 30th. This event is the chance to highlight the amazing children and families who are impacted by autism and show them they are not alone. Registration is available online at www.jbrookswalkablock.org or you can register at the event. Registration and activities begin at noon at Southbridge Mall, and the walk begins at 1:00pm. All proceeds stay local to help families in North Iowa.
But that’s not all.
Earlier this month, they held their first ever dodgeball tournament at the Clear Lake Athletics and Wellness Center. As with the walk, all proceeds for the “Dodging for Autism” event stayed in the area to help those in need.
If you or someone you know is concerned your child may be showing early signs of being on the autism spectrum, there will be a free screening day on May 1st at the One Vision Children’s Autism Center. The screening will only take 15-30 minutes and will be conducted by a licensed psychologist. The screening results will help determine if the child should seek out a formal diagnostic evaluation.
The services provided by One Vision are beyond impactful throughout all of North Iowa.
As they continue to grow and adapt in this ever-changing world, they will strive to provide the best care to their residents, as well as families who utilize the Autism Center.
Helping those with disabilities live their best life.