time valued at Valesco House
Ayo Cole (with Jessica Meyers 02)
The four residents of Valesco House a cooperative program
between Mennonite Disabilities Committee and Goshen College
have busy schedules: studies, jobs, meals together, social activities
and more. So who best keeps track of the comings and goings? The
housemates agree that Lisa Mort stays on top of things. Mort, a
young woman from Goshen with developmental disabilities, moved into
Valesco House in January, joining student caregivers Rachel Koontz
(Sr., Elkhart, Ind.), Megan Cunningham (Sr., Nappanee, Ind.), and
Charletta Erb (Jr., Wellman, Iowa).
Valesco House, located at the corner of College Avenue and 12th
Street, is the sister house in the MDC Vita Program,
joining the nearly seven-year-old Vita House for male students and
MDC residents. Both houses aim to integrate high-functioning MDC
clients with GC students, enriching the life of the college community
and the lives of persons with developmental disabilities as each
learns from the other.
Like Vita House, the mission is to create a warm, comfortable group
home environment for individuals with developmental disabilities
who live in the house with several GC students. Together, they do
various activities, similar to campus small group housing. The GC
students receive discounted rent and money for food. The program
is mainly voluntary.
Mort enjoys living with the students and participating in college
activities; she has a college mailbox and ID card as well as a campus
meal plan somewhat like an adjunct student. She joins her
GC housemates in taking care of chores such as shopping, cooking
and cleaning. Her housemates describe her as enthusiastic, friendly
In addition, its Mort who usually knows what members of the
busy household are doing.
Shes always interested in whats going on in our
lives. Erb said. And creative, like [with] crafts. She
likes to make up homework for herself. I see it as a way shes
identifying with us as students.
Said Koontz, Lisa keeps everyones schedule straight.
She also works hard.
Mort volunteers every weekday, folding laundry at Greencroft, and
works three days a week at Arbys; she likes that she gets
Mort has adjusted well to living in this unique group environment,
and says she does not miss her family as much because of the new
friends she has made at Valesco House. Morts parents live
only a few minutes away from Valesco House, and can visit her during
Cunningham says that one of the things she enjoys most about Valesco
House is just all coming together when were all at the
All three GC women would like to see more students and people with
disabilities interacting together. I found out there was going
to be a new Vita House for women and knew I wanted to be part of
it, Cunningham said.
Koontz, who said she has found this program to be a good learning
experience, said, My goal is to share life with people with
disabilities, to learn from them and be with them where they are.
Student residents of both Vita and Valesco houses are required to
take the Church as Care-Giver class and attend several training
sessions from MDC, learning more about marginalized groups and what
it means to live in community.
Ayo Cole is a sophomore communication major from Nairobi, Kenya.
Additional information came from Jessica Meyers (Sr., Bethseda,
Md.). More information about the Vita Program can be found online