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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2006-03-31 / Front Page

Aldersgate provides a home for special needs adults

By Rachel Haynie

Dan Shumaker,(l) CEO of Shumaker Homes; Judy Weathers, chair of the Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry; SC United Methodist Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor; Al Bynum, vice chair, Epworth Children's Home Board of Trustees; and Margaret Brabham, future resident break ground for construction of the first cottage.  Dan Shumaker,(l) CEO of Shumaker Homes; Judy Weathers, chair of the Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry; SC United Methodist Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor; Al Bynum, vice chair, Epworth Children's Home Board of Trustees; and Margaret Brabham, future resident break ground for construction of the first cottage.

This week's groundbreaking at Epworth Children's Home means Margaret Westmoreland Brabham can walk across campus to work, and her parents can sleep a little easier.

Brabham, 31, is one of the six special needs adults who will reside at the cottage being undertaken by Shumaker Homes. The Home Builders Association of Columbia is partnering with Shumaker in the project.

Brabham, who lives at home with her parents Dr. and Mrs. Mickey Brabham, works as an aide at Epworth's Early Intervention Center. She will be one of the first residents in a cottage which is just across campus from the center.

"We feel the cottage lifestyle will enhance Margaret's independence, and the independence of the other residents," said Dr. McKay, "and it is a comfort to her mother and me to know, long term, she will be cared for."

Brabham and his wife Eugenia Brabham have been deeply involved with other community and church leaders and committee members in the formation of the Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry and the early initiatives toward establishing this first cottage.

Aldersgate, a ministry of the SC Conference of the United Methodist Church, was chosen last spring by Shumaker Homes as a community project.

Epworth, which offered a site for the cottage on its campus months earlier, is "delighted to partner with Shumaker and the local home builders association in providing these special residents with a home for their future," said The Rev. Dr. Ted Walter, acting director of Epworth Children's Home.

In addition to six special needs adult residents, the first cottage will house a small support staff. The design resembles cottages that serve a similar group in NC and will serve as a model for future cottages in other locations of SC. The next cottage may be built in Orangeburg on the campus of Methodist Oaks.

For the Aldersgate committee, the start of the project came not a moment too soon. " The lack of housing for adults with developmental disabilities is at a crisis stage with growing numbers of aging parents struggling to care for their special needs adult children," said Aldersgate chair, Judy Weathers.

In SC, there are more than 3,000 special needs adults living at home with parents 55 years old and older; of these, approximately half are living with parents 65 years old and older. Parents 80 years old or older are still trying to care for 274 of these special needs adults.

When Aldersgate was chartered in 2004, the only way parents could get housing for their special needs adult child or children was to either die or become disabled themselves.

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