BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Ohio — We all need a little help to grow and thrive and there’s a place in Ohio dedicated to adults with developmental disabilities. The free program was started by a concerned mother who wanted more for her autistic son.
Fifteen years later, it’s helping other families be more independent.
Irene Jones doesn’t mind sharing her story with anyone.
“This is my heart, this my passion because of my own son Josiah. It took everything I had to get it going," she said.
It’s the kind of story that will make you look at Jones in admiration. In 2008, this single, working mother, felt like her back was against the wall, as her son, Josiah navigated autism.
“I put him in a group home which was a bad mistake. And when I put him in there, they started drugging him. They didn’t understand autism,” Jones said.
Jones said that when visiting her son, she noticed a change.
“He did not look like himself. When I left there, I said, 'Lord, I gotta get him out,'" she said.
Jones decided to quit her job as a bus driver and tap into her savings.
“I took every dime I had, drew it down. I had almost close to 70 grand and I started this," she said.
Jones created a place for her son, and others with developmental disabilities, to come and learn, naming it Josiah’s House.
She said she rented the space and for two years, it was just her and Josiah. As money started dwindling, she turned to social media to promote her nonprofit.
Over time, this group grew and there are now 22 “friends” attending this adult day program.
Ms. Irene, as she’s known at Josiah’s House, said, “I treat them all just like they’re mine. They all really are just like mine. That’s why we love these guys. They know it too.”
Those who participate in Josiah’s House are ages 18 all the way up to senior citizens. They’re able to socialize and dance, while learning life skills — like how to do laundry, clean a kitchen, do janitorial work, manage a register and other tasks that might someday land them a job.
It’s all free, including the rides for participants to and from the facility.
“I think it’s building endurance for him and teaching him how to stay on task as well as making friends,” says Charlotte Laird.
Last spring, she and her husband, John, enrolled their now 20-year-old son, Shemah.
The Lairds liked Josiah’s House so much, John says he decided to join the board in January.
“To have a place like this is a God send for a parent of a special needs adult. And the reason I became a part of the board is because I want to see this place grow,” John Laird said.
And they’re working toward that.
Inside Josiah’s house is the In The Valley Café, where many of the program’s adults can practice those life skills. Pre-pandemic, the public came here to pick up “grab and go” lunches like sandwiches and wraps.
These “friends” are now working toward reopening that café later this February.
“Just because they’re special needs does not mean they have nothing to give back to the society. But people have kind of pushed them out. Not Ms. Irene,” Jones said.
John Laird dreams big for the impact Josiah's House could make in the world.
“I wish that we can take Josiah’s House and make a thousand of them all over the world because it’s just it’s been that impactful. It’s a place where they love each other and care for each other. That’s the thing to me that impressed me so much,” he said.
Jones said her goal is to have her own building for Josiah’s House, and she’s currently trying to raise the money to do that.
For more information about Josiah’s House, click here.
This article was written by Courtney Gousman for WEWS.