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Men’s group gives group home a boost

Men’s group gives group home a boost

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Men’s group gives group home a boost

By Sarah Alsgaard | July 2, 2009 {1040}

HALLANDALE, Fla. — In a quiet neighborhood in Hallandale near a Haitian mission that houses a large, bustling playground in its backyard sits Wesley Group Home Ministries Inc.

Wesley Group Home Ministries began as a ministry of Riverside United Methodist Church in the former Miami District of the Florida Conference. Photo #09-1234.

It doesn’t stand out from any other house on the block except for a sign out front that reads “Larry’s Home.” It’s named after the Rev. Dr. Larry Purvis, a Florida Conference pastor who helped start it.

Florida Conference United Methodist Men are hoping to help it stand out a little more, at least among the conference’s members.

More than a group home

“It’s more of a home than a group home,” said Ceal Diaz, Wesley Group Home Ministries board designate.

It’s a home where residents warmly greet anyone who visits. One resident, a woman named Susan, is quick to ask for a game of dominoes or help putting together a puzzle. She has a sly grin on her face when she beats her unsuspecting opponent at a game of dominoes according to her rules. Jeff smiles broadly as he shows off his tidy bedroom, which he cleaned by himself.

Wesley Group Home provides care for up to six developmentally delayed adults aged 18 and older who cannot live without assistance. Currently, three residents reside in the home. They have their own responsibilities within the home, such as making their beds and doing their laundry, but they also work in a nearby sheltered workshop where they are assigned tasks based on their abilities. They each receive a small salary and pay a percentage of their income in rent. The residents also have plenty of opportunities for fun through group outings and games. The goal is to help them live as independently as possible, Diaz says.

“We do outings; we do activities in the group room; we go to the movies,” a direct care counselor working at the home said. “We just have fun with the clients.”

Jeff shows off his bedroom. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #09-1235.

Direct care workers are on staff 24 hours a day when residents are in the home, which is licensed by the state and monitored by local area professionals. A manager is also onsite to ensure the home meets all licensing requirements.

“We often have potential residents and their families visit the home,” said June Johns, president of Wesley Group Home Ministries. “A group of professionals and advocates, including Wesley Group Home Ministries board members, support coordinators and family members, determines the compatibility of the program to the needs of the individual. Once the board makes a decision to admit an individual, we are confident of the individual’s ability to prosper in the home.”

“I’ll say most of the residents get along as well as any family of six living under the same roof,” Johns added.

“Having a Christian home … it puts God’s perspective in the plans,” another staff member said. “They are God’s people, and it being a Christian home, there are guidelines.”

Johns says bringing the home to fruition was a challenge. The Florida Conference’s former West Palm Beach District donated two lots of land for the home in 1994. When nearby residents heard what type of building would be located in the neighborhood, Johns says they protested. 

“There were people with signs that said, ‘Not in my backyard,’ ” she said.

Johns filed fair housing charges and won. The home was completed in 1998.

“There are so many stumbling blocks that have fallen before us,” she said. “There are things that have come up that would’ve finished any other organization, but when God shuts a window, he opens a door.”

Men’s group takes up challenge

Now Wesley Group Home Ministries is working to start homes in other areas of Florida.

“It’s needed to have a group home in every district,” Johns said. “We did a survey five years before starting the house so we knew that the need is there.”

Rodney Akers and June Johns. Photo by Sarah Alsgaard. Photo #09-1236.

Diaz agrees. “There’s a great need, especially in this economy; we have a real need for faith-based and community-based operations,” she said.

Johns says funding from Florida United Methodists has been minimal because Wesley Group Home Ministries hasn’t been well-known within the Florida Conference.

The conference’s United Methodist Men are hoping to change that. The men’s group has adopted Wesley Group Home Ministries as one of its missions, according to its president, Rodney Akers.

“Wesley Group Home is sort of a well-kept secret,” he said. “We think it’s an area that is overlooked and not well funded in the conference, and we thought this was a worthy project.”

As part of its mission, the men’s group has created a promotional DVD and brochure and is encouraging its members in the Hallandale area to volunteer at the home.

“We’re just so excited,” Johns said. “It just gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. It’s like turning on a light bulb in a dark room.”

“I’m a long-time Methodist, have a lot of Methodist men in my family, and I can speak for the board, we’re absolutely delighted,” Diaz said.

Wesley Group Home Ministries is also included in the Florida Conference Together! capital and endowment campaign, which plans to raise $500,000 for the ministry. The funds will be used to hire and help cover the salary of an executive director over the next five years. Plans also include establishing two new group homes in partnership with local churches. The director will oversee that expansion and work to secure donations for the ministry.

“(For the campaign) we’ve identified areas of need, and Wesley Group Home Ministries is one of those areas,” said Suzanne McGovern, vice president of planned giving and communications at the Florida United Methodist Foundation, which is coordinating the campaign.

More information about United Methodist Men and its work with Wesley Group Home Ministries is available at Individuals who would like to volunteer or offer their assistance may visit the site or call 877-815-3692.

More information about the Together! Campaign is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is a freelance writer for e-Review.