By Jessica Brodie
United Methodists in South Carolina are gearing up to open two more homes for adults with special needs this year, in addition to the three they already operate.
Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry is about to break ground on the Sunshine House, a home that will accommodate four men with special needs, near Aldersgate’s Rick’s House at The Manor in Florence.
“An anonymous person generously donated the amount to build the home, and it is completely paid for,” said Kim Thomas, Aldersgate executive director.
Thomas said The Manor deeded Aldersgate the property, and it is separated from Ricks House by a parking lot, so the two will be neighbors. Construction should take five or six months, and they hope to be able to move people in by the fall.
“Once it’s built, we have to go through licensing with the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and fire marshal and such, then we can go ahead,” Thomas said.
Aldersgate is also in the process of purchasing a home in the Coldstream area of Columbia. As of press time, their offer to purchase had been accepted, and they anticipate closing by the end of the month. They are not certain yet whether the home will be for men or women, but it will accommodate four people with special needs.
These two homes are in addition to the three others Aldersgate operates: Rick’s House, along with one called “The Oaks” in Orangeburg at The Oaks that accommodates six men and one called “Columbia Builder’s Care Home” in Columbia near Epworth Children’s Home that accommodates six women.
Thomas said the houses are part of Aldersgate’s mission to provide quality homes in a Christian environ for people with special needs that enables them to be as independent as possible.
“There is a really vast need for homes for people with special needs in our state,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of aging caregivers that aren’t going to be taking care of their loved ones with special needs. We’re hoping as we continue to grow we will be that next ‘home away from home’ for people and give their families a sense of relief and peace knowing their child or brother or sister is living in an environment like home, and one that is Christian.”
Currently, she said, some adults with special needs are able to live with relatives, but as those relatives age, situations change. The South Carolina’s Department of Disabilities and Special Needs keeps a critical residential list, and people with special needs can be placed wherever there is a vacancy, but Aldersgate is one of only two that offers a Christian living environment.
“Our Christian aspect and high quality of care is what sets us apart from others in the state. Our folks go to church, they’re active in the churches,” Thomas said, noting some Aldersgate residents work at Meals on Wheels, the local food bank, or volunteer at Epworth. “They are just really active and engaged in the community.”
Also exciting for Thomas is the potential for still another Aldersgate home in Columbia—this sixth one on the property of Grace United Methodist Church on Harbison Blvd. in Columbia. Aldersgate is working with leadership both from Grace and from Christus Victor Lutheran next door, and all are eager about the possibility. They are currently seeking approval from the Harbison Association.
Thomas said that while no funding is needed for the Sunshine House in Florence, donations are welcome for the Columbia home and for all the Aldersgate homes in general, whether monetary, furniture items or everyday needs such as paper towels.
“And prayer is huge,” Thomas said. “Not everyone is in a position to give financially, but praying we’re good servants with the Lord’s money and make good decisions in serving our people, those are definitely appreciated.”
For more on Aldersgate, visit https://www.aldersgatespecialneedsministry.org