Parents create housing community for adults with developmental disabilities

Project inspired by twin sons and waiting lists

More than a decade ago, Jim and Sandy Hembd, who are in their 70’s, faced the serious question of who would care for their sons after they passed away. Mike and Mark Hembd are 44-year-old twins with Down Syndrome.

"They have always lived with us," said Sandy Hembd. "We've had an amazing run with them. It's been pure joy."

What wasn’t a joy for the Hembd’s was searching for an assisted living facility where the boys could live when their parents are no longer around to care for them.

"Colorado is 47th in the nation for services for people with developmental disabilities,”"said Sandy Hembd. "So, the amazingly long waiting list for residential care was a motivating factor in and of itself. When we started looking around, we couldn't find what we really wanted, so we decided, 'We are it. We're going to have to do this.'"

What they've done is create Glory Community, a nonprofit assisted living center built through donations and grants that, when completed, will serve their sons and 38 others with intellectual disabilities.

"All of our residents have all the self-help skills they need," said Sandy Hembd. "They need help negotiating life."

With the help of live-in caregivers, called house teachers, the culture at Glory Community is focused on structure, independence and peer friendships.

"It helps us to live on our own," said Robbie Alford, a 21 year-old resident. "It helps us to learn important skills like cleaning, doing chores and working together."

Alford and the Hembd twins were the first residents to move into Glory Community in October, where the first of five houses is finished.

"This has turned out to be a good transition for them," said Jim Hembd. "For us, however, the house is awfully empty."

After 44 years Jim and Sandy are empty-nesters, but that bittersweet feeling is softened by the knowledge they have created a lasting legacy that will help many people with special need. Now they hope other families will copy their model and build even more housing communities for those with developmental disabilities.

"We can’t make Glory Community big enough for 10,000 people," said Jim hembd.

Another long-term goal at Glory Community is creating a business enterprise where all the residents can work in one location.

The tuition for this assisted living facility is $2,500 per month.

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