Adopt-a-Home, a new SARAH Foundation initiative to help ensure local housing for people living with intellectual or other disabilities stays tidy and welcoming, kicked off last week with a fall spiff-up and beautification of one of the foundation’s independent living spaces.
“We try to make these homes where we have our clients even nicer places to live,” said SARAH Foundation Executive Director Ken Alberti. “And so that was kind of the idea that we pitched.”
The Guilford-based SARAH Foundation raises money to support a family of organizations all dedicated to assisting those with disabilities in various ways, including finding employment, living independently, and assisting with educational programs and early childhood intervention. Founded in 1957, SARAH serves communities from Old Saybrook to West Haven, providing services for more than 1,500 people in 2018, according to its annual report.
The first Adopt-a-Home kicked off on Nov. 15 as Matt Healy and his staff at Page Taft-Christie’s real estate agency in downtown Guilford spent an afternoon at a SARAH house in Guilford planting perennials, cleaning autumn debris, and putting a general shine on the house- something many staff members have an eye for from their work in real estate, according to Healy.
Healy said that after the clean-up, he and the other Page-Taft agents who participated were “really moved” by the response of the residents who came out to thank them and even game them a tour of the house afterward. He said that about 15 people from his office participated.
Coming in to clean up leaves and put down fresh mulch was a way to “kind of give them the sense that we’re all here for you, that kind of sense of community—we’re all in this together,” said Healy.
The Adopt-a-Home program was conceived not just as a way to provide a little shine and a little clean-up to a SARAH home, but also as a way to allow local businesses and individuals to offer their skillsets in service of SARAH’s programs, Alberti said. These kinds of volunteer resources, and the awareness and community engagement that goes along with it, are invaluable for SARAH’s mission, according to Alberti.
Alberti said that when he came onboard with Sarah a couple years ago, he wanted to formalize some of the relationships the SARAH Foundation has with local businesses and community leaders, and also find more direct, personalized ways for them to be involved in SARAH’s work outside of galas and monetary donations.
“Page-Taft is a great real estate company right here in town,” Alberti said. “The Adopt-a-House concept [was] something that they might like to do…so they can kind of say, ‘Okay, this is a home we’re going to care for throughout the year,’ and since real estate is their expertise, we thought this might be a nice fit.”
“On a daily basis, everybody [at Page-Taft], when we’re walking up to a house, we talk about curb appeal and little projects you can do…We’re just starting with the outside, just to do some light work and do something nice,” said Healy.
These gestures that can mean a lot of the folks living in the houses, Alberti said, and also for their families, who see people from the town ready to pitch in for their neighbors in a hands-on way. The more people who get involved, the more ways the foundation can bring awareness and spread the word about its services, according to Alberti.
“Our role really is to make sure folks know that we’re here,” said Alberti, and “that these programs exist and that they’re important. They’re important for people who live right here in our community. It may be a neighbor, it may be someone you see at the store, it may be someone you see walking on the green. These are folks who are just like all of us, who want to live engaged lives in the community…We want folks to know about that, and find out ways they can help.”
Alberti and Healy said they already have plans for a spring cleaning initiative for SARAH homes. Healy also said that Page-Taft is planning holiday decorations for the house, including a Christmas tree and lights, and will host residents of the house at their office holiday celebration.
“This idea of Adopt-a-House—we’re all-in on it,” Healy said.
As more community members get involved, Alberti said he expects more ideas, expertise, and resources to roll in as people find more ways to help their neighbors in Guilford and around the shoreline.
For more information about the SARAH Foundation and the programs it supports, visit www.sarahfoundation.org.