For over 20 years, The Coventry Reserve has provided life enrichment programs for adults with special needs.
Located at 2004 Parker Road in St. Paul since 2005, the campus and programs have grown to serve the community — and now it is growing again.
In May, the nonprofit fulfilled a longtime dream of Co-founder and Executive Director Darlene Blakey with the purchase of the neighboring property to the north, which includes a house and a large barn.
The home was quickly reconfigured to be used as a Respite House where Coventry participants can arrange to stay one weekend per month.
For caregivers of adults with special needs, the structured home offers a break.
“Parents need a break,” Outreach and Development Coordinator Deborah Crosby said. “When you are dealing with any kind of disability, it’s a 24-7 kind of thing. Marriages breakup at a rate of 80 percent when disability is involved. “If parents aren’t trying to find ways to process and decompress, it’s going to tear them up,” Crosby added.
For Coventry students, a weekend at the respite house provides a social outing with increased independence. Meals, medications and additional support is provided by Coventry employees who know the students. The weekend away includes going to town for activities on Saturday, attending a church service on Sundays and eating at a restaurant after church.
The house has four bedrooms — including one bedroom with two beds — for up to five adults. The kitchen has lowered countertops and a microwave drawer to encourage those with wheelchairs to participate in preparing meals. The bathrooms have extra wide doorways, and the showers are equipped with stools and a handheld shower head.
The barn on the property will be developed into the new home of Powered to Move, an Allen nonprofit that provides adapted physical fitness and social opportunities for adults with special needs.
With nine acres of land, Coventry will continue expanding indefinitely. There are plans to add more classroom space to the campus and expand the kitchen for a new culinary program next year. Crosby says they eventually want to build dorm rooms for students, as well as a few small houses for additional respite programming.
“Some of the parents aren’t ready to let go and let them stay for the weekend,” Crosby said. “They’ve had that person and the responsibility of that person for so long.”
Coventry has 52 students, all with disabilities, that range in age from 18 to 62 with an average age of 35.
“Their parents don’t get that empty nest syndrome,” Crosby said. “By the time their kids are 40 or 45, how do they let go of something you’ve had the responsibility of for so long?”
Respite programming is twofold. It gives caregivers a break, but also reminds them that they are not going to live forever — and it helps prepare students to do more for themselves. After a weekend away, when they go home their parents see that they are capable of more and start expecting more from them.
Because many of the students are not prepared to live a dorm room or rental home lifestyle, the nonprofit hopes to expand its programs to include a residential program.
“We are trying to help them learn to prepare their child,” Crosby said. “They are not going to be here forever. They have to make plans for when they are no longer here.”
By Jeremy Hallock
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