New Loveland facility hopes to change lives

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VENICE, Fla. -- After years of fundraising and working to obtain tax dollars, they've broken ground on the Loveland Village in Venice. Tuesday, hundreds came out to support the effort to build an on-site living facility for the developmentally disabled in Venice.

It’s expected to be complete next year. It’s a first of it's kind project in the Sunshine State they say could transform how those with disabilities live their lives.

Ann Graybeal still takes care of her son Scott. He's 46 years old and has Down syndrome. "He lives in the community but is not really a part of the community. His neighbors are very nice, but they don't invite him over for pizza or to watch a movie."

She’s excited now that no matter what happens to her, Scott will be able to live out his life at the soon to be Loveland Village, a 42-unit apartment complex for adults with developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. "To be able to be around his friends and the support he has always had in case something happens to me; when something happens to me, I should say."

It's a nearly $12 million project years in the making, as part of the Loveland Center next door. It’s been slowed by the downturn in the economy, but they’re still pushing through, says CEO Carl Penxa. "We believe this is needed not only in this community, but in all communities throughout the country. This is the first generation of people with developmental disabilities that are going to outlive their parents, or their parent’s ability to be caretakers."

Government leaders have taken notice. Congressman Vern Buchanan says federal funds could help. The project has become important to State Senator Nancy Detert, who has already worked to bring in $4.775 million in state tax dollars. "It is such a better model than what we used to do in the old days, where you went to government housing and lived a lonely existence," says Detert.

Loveland has raised $3.5 million in the community but still needs another $1.2 for Phase One.

Former Venice council member Jim Woods is leading that charge. He says with the savings in public transportation funds it practically pays for itself. "In transportation savings it's $1.1 million annually they will not have to pay now to get people here and back."

“There are a lot of no brainers in life. We hope that many people in the community look at this as a no brainer and certainly support what we are trying to do."

They also believe the facility could actually be an attraction to the area as families with those with disabilities move here for it.

For Scott, it's already set to be home. "He is so excited about having the village where he can live and be in a community with his friends," says Graybeal.

Not only will it be a nice place to live but such a relief for these families. Right now if someone who does suffer from some of these inflictions loses their primary caregiver, they can be shipped someplace else and become wardens of the state.