UMAR partners for new Huntersville apartments
by Staff Writer
Each of the nine one-bedroom apartments at McClesky Apartments features a bathroom, kitchenette and den. A community center on the property houses a full kitchen and a laundry room. The apartments were designed and built specifically to support the independent living needs of members of the community with developmental disabilities.
The apartments are the result of a five-year effort on the part of UMAR, a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 under the umbrella of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. UMAR promotes community inclusion, independence and growth for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through residential, employment and cultural enrichment opportunities.
“We were looking to provide less restrictive options for individuals to live in the community,” Ann Church, UMAR’s president and CEO, said. “One of those options was to create individual apartments where people who were quite capable of living on their own could live in the community and get the supports that they needed, but also live as independently as possible.”
The apartments are named for Bishop Lawrence and Margaret McCleskey, who helped create UMAR 29 years ago.
The $2 million complex was built on land donated by the Huntersville UMC, where the Rev. Mike Goode has served as senior pastor since June 2010. Goode came to the church while the project was under way, but says the apartments and its residents remain one of the church’s priorities.
“We’re trying to support the folks that move into the McCleskey Apartments through not just giving them a place to live, but to help them spiritually and physically,” he said.
“As each resident moves in, we have a person at our church who is the relationship coordinator between those who move in and the church. Out of the eight residents that have moved in, five of them have become connected with the church.”
One of the complex’s residents, Adam Dunaway, has served as a UMAR board member for the last six years. Dunaway, 35, has cerebral palsy, is mildly mentally challenged and has some learning disabilities, as well, yet he has been living independently since his early 20s.
“We absolutely love it here,” he said. “It’s really benefited everybody.”
Many of the residents work and a portion of their income is paid in rent. Some residents who have little money remaining after paying rent receive help from UMAR, the church and individual contributions to buy food, clothing and other staples.
“One of the best comments I heard from one of the residents was that for the first time in their life, they felt like an independent adult,” Goode said. “In other words, being free to live on their own, which I think brings a lot of dignity to them as well.”
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