by Debra Muzikar
Last May I moved to Fallbrook – a pristine community with rolling hills, horses, and community spirit in Northern San Diego County. I never visited this part of California before last year when I attended an autism function in Temecula fifteen miles away. Soon thereafter, a good friend moved to Fallbrook and I visited her often, taking the scenic and relaxing train ride from Carpinteria to Oceanside. Over time, not only did I come to appreciate the beauty of Fallbrook, I became excited about opportunities for people with special needs in this community.
Jeremiah’s Ranch is a non-profit in Fallbrook started by a group of parents who were concerned about the future of their children who have special needs. Jeremiah’s Ranch is visioned as a community in a rural neighborhood with housing, a community support center, organic gardens, and micro-businesses.
Even though Jeremiah’s Ranch hasn’t yet purchased property, it is a vibrant organization which provides support to families and their children. They host events and activities, such as Special Olympics and dances for their children; and walks and support for parents. They offer a new opportunity for adults with special needs to work as hospice volunteers.
At the first meeting I attended at a local restaurant I was impressed with the sincerity and cohesiveness of the group. They are truly a community of parents who not only want what’s best for their own child, but realize by helping others they help their own children.
In September I attended a visioning meeting for a new satellite college in Fallbrook. The College of Adaptive Arts is a cutting-edge arts, health and wellness conservatory for adults with disabilities started in San Jose five years ago by two women. The college has grown by leaps and bounds. The folks at Jeremiah’s Ranch are looking to create a replicable model of the College in Fallbrook.
The dedicated parents of Fallbrook are blessed with good fortune. They have already received a donation of space for their future college at a local Baptist church. This is where we attended our visioning meeting.
Much like the visioning meeting I attended several years ago in Santa Ynez for Hidden Wings, this one was attended by parents and their children. One young woman, Danae, a new Fallbrook resident, attended the college in San Jose and was happy to talk about her experiences.
“My most favorite class is acting and singing. It’s my passion,” Danae said.
Sandi Anderson, mom of two adults on the autism spectrum, conducted the brainstorming session.
The classes suggested range from life skills classes and business classes to to art, photography, music, animation, and theater. We had no problem filling the board with ideas.
If Jeremiah’s Ranch receives approval to move forward, they hope to start at least one class in January.
Jeremiah’s Ranch is one of many rural communities which are seeking funding for ranch-style community living for a growing special needs population. There is a realization many people with special needs do better in rural settings with easy access to animals, agriculture, expressive arts programs, and opportunities for adults to volunteer and create their own businesses.
Even though the housing component of Jeremiah’s Ranch may be years away, they are already grooming their first resident: Tigger.
Photos courtesy of Sandi Anderson.