Posted by Randall White on Jul 16, 2019
                Many of us are familiar with Gracious Grounds, the group founded and spearheaded by Sandy Baker.  Gracious Grounds is a 501(C)(3) organization whose mission is housing for special needs adults to allow them to live with a certain degree of independence.  Sandy is a former special education teacher who was later a principal at Holmes Elementary school.  Sandy has a special needs child and she put aside her public education career to focus on her son Eric.
                At first her organization was involved in societal integration with various jobs that the participants could do, but all still lived at home.  Sandy wanted to expand the program to allow these young adults a chance to make some of their own living decisions and to provide a respite for parents and family.
                When we last heard from Sandy, Gracious Grounds just purchased 1515 Despelder in Grand Haven.  That building houses six residents and a live in Resident Advisor.  The age range of residents is 19-60.  The rent is $950.00 per month including utilities for a 12 x 25 foot room.  The residents are all on Social Security Disability.  Their work income is setoff against those benefits.  The families make up the difference.
                Recently, a new apartment building was built across the street.  After some haggling, the owners agreed to rent it to Gracious Grounds.  There are ten apartments.  The Resident Advisor takes one unit and the other nine are rented.  They are 1000 square foot units with kitchens.  The residents are responsible for cooking their own breakfast and lunches.  They also must keep their unit neat, and do their own laundry.  The rent for these units is $995.00 and includes utilities and the dinner meal.
                A third site is currently under construction.  Local Developer, Chad Bush, has offered one of six apartment buildings being constructed on the former Bill Tysman property behind D&W in Grand Haven.  This building is not yet complete and there are spaces available.  The units are one and two bedroom apartments.  The singles go for $1,000.00 plus utilities.  The two bedroom units will house two residents with the master bedroom going for $750.00 and the smaller bedroom for $700.00.  The utilities are shared equally.  This building will serve 35 residents.
                There is a fourth option in the future which is currently vacant land in Ferrysburg.
                What is unique about Gracious Grounds opportunity is that it gives these individuals the opportunity to create their own life which is closer to what the general population enjoys rather than have one created for them which is typical for a group home setting.  Gracious Grounds is not licensed by the State.  As a result, the project is not funded by any governmental agency.  It is funded by rents and donations.  There is an annual fundraiser which generates $90,000.00 on average; and there are other donations as well.  JSJ for instance has provided a one-half match grant which could generate $37,500.00 for Gracious Grounds.
                Thank you to Sandy for her energy and initiative in this project.   It has been well embraced by the community and we look forward to its continuity and expansion.