LEO celebrates completion of Issaquah Highlands family home

May 29, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

The house in the Issaquah Highlands still smells of new construction.

The smell of rustic carpentry, fresh paint and that familiar, yet comforting, new-house scent permeates the nostrils upon entry.

A sign next to the kitchen sink reads “Dreams Come True.”

Life Enrichment Options’ third family home for adults with developmental disabilities is officially completed.

The Angela House, named after one of LEO’s founding board members, Angela Dews, will be home to five people with developmental disabilities as well as a full-time caregiver.

Nancy Whitaker, LEO’s current president, said the home will allow its residents to live as independently as they can and fully participate in the community.

“These young folks have a dream of moving out of their family home and being out in the world on their own,” Whitaker said. “This is one way that we can help make that dream come true.”

LEO’s other family homes, the Ann Dennis and Rose houses, also in the Issaquah area, boast continuous occupancy. It’s no surprise then that the Angela House already has a long waiting list of potential residents.

Get involved

LEO invites those whose lives include a person with a developmental disability to join in a conversation to explore the needs and expectations of the next generation.

The event is from noon to 2 p.m. June 18 at the King County Library Distribution Center. Learn more by emailing info@lifeenrichmentoptions.org.

Prospective applicants will meet with the caregiver whose job is to find a suitable mixture of five residents. It’s an important process, explained Rose Finnegan, a founding board member. Residents must have the ability to live in such a home, but most importantly, the five chosen need to get along.

“We don’t do it on our own willy-nilly,” Finnegan said of choosing the residents. “It’s a process to go through. Compatibility is a real big issue because you have five people living together.”

Founded in 1988, the nonprofit organization advocates for people with developmental disabilities in the areas of employment, housing, recreation and community development, according to Finnegan. LEO was formed after a group of parents of children with developmental disabilities joined together to fulfill a need within the population.

“When our kids were leaving the school district programs, there wasn’t anything for them to do,” Finnegan said. “So we came together to create a life for them and to create a community where they could grow up and live independently as best as they could.”

The LEO houses are adult family homes that are licensed by the state. One advantage found in a LEO home, Whitaker noted, is that the residents are able to live close to their families, in the communities they are familiar with.

“What’s really great about a LEO home is that the people that live in them, their families live here in the Issaquah area,” Whitaker said. “If they sign up for housing through the state, they could be sent anywhere in the state to live. But this way they can live in their own home community and be a part of it, where they feel comfortable and where they belong.”

Angela Dews, the house’s namesake, understands firsthand the struggles that parents face as their child matures.

“You’re always learning things being parents of adults with developmental disabilities,” Dews said. “We’re still learning and still trying to let go as well. Letting go will never be complete for those of us with children with developmental disabilities.”

Yet, Dews said she believes that the LEO homes make it a little bit easier.

“You’re letting go of your adult child into a quality home. A home that maybe we would aspire to,” she said. “It’s very comforting to know that your adult child is going to be looked after by a caregiver, but also to be looked after by the LEO group.”

The Angela House is debt free thanks in part to the Polygon Northwest Co., Milbrandt Architects and Port Blakely Communities, as well as donations from the community.

Now that the Angela House is completed, LEO is on to the next venture, Whitaker said. The group is seeking new board members and can always use volunteers to come play games with the residents or help spruce up the yards at the LEO homes.

Learn more about Life Enrichment Options at www.lifeenrichmentoptions.org.

Christina Corrales-Toy: 392-6434, ext. 241, or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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