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A home with meaning: Foxes Corner opens for people with developmental disabilities

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Kyle Martin, Staff Writer

More than five years ago, the Park family had dreams of creating a supportive living environment for their grandson who has developmental disabilities, and finally their dream has been realized.

Foxes Corner, a group home for adults with mental disabilities, officially opened in June after planning began more than five years ago. Now the Parks' grandson, Malcolm Carroll, lives in the home where he can play his beloved piano, cook meals and rest when he's not at Life Works Community Inc.'s day habilitation center.

The six-bedroom house on Alamo Place has common areas where residents can interact and keep each other company, and a caretaker lives at the home.  

“Our vision is to produce living that is sustainable and an institution that is sustainable. We wanted to make a home that [residents] would be able to afford with the money that they have,” said Dr. Randy Park, a former emergency room doctor and chairman of the Siti and Jido Park Foundation. “Most of them have some form of disability, and that disability doesn’t pay very much.”

Park and his wife started the foundation after his retirement from practicing medicine. The foundation, which operates Life Works and Foxes Corner, owns four plots of land in the Alamo Place cul-de-sac. In addition to Foxes Corner, one plot is the future site for a women's group home, another is planned for use as green space, and the last does not have a designated purpose yet. 

Park said funding for opening the men's home was the product of a business deal involving Emerus Hospital Group, in which he was a partner. Two segments of the company were sold to two other hospital groups in Texas, and the result generated sufficient funding for the foundation's projects on the cul-de-sac.

“We had good fortune in our business and wanted to share that with other people,” Park said.

Foxes Corner runs mainly on solar energy from solar panels on its roof, Park said. The house is tied into the electrical grid and uses power from the city electrical utility at nighttime, but excess energy produced by the solar panels goes into the grid and help lower utility costs. 

The home is outfitted with security cameras and other technology for the residents' care and security.

“One thing that we saw is that in many of the groups that are trying to provide care for people with these disabilities, they have to maintain a profit," Park said. "And because they have to maintain a profit … they’re limited in what they can do for the clients.”

Life Works' and Foxes Corner's nonprofit status opens up better opportunities to provide proper care, with support from the community. Foxes Corner reserves at least one room per weekend for respite care for families — where adults with disabilities can stay for a short time, to alleviate some of the duties for families strained by caring for them.

“We want the clients that use our services to have a full life. A full life involves being of service, whether that’s having a job where they work for money, or having jobs that they do," Park said. "Everybody that goes to the day-hab or lives at Foxes Corner has community involvement that they’ve got to do.”

At the Life Works day-hab just off University Drive in Denton, clients are taught meaningful skills to empower them to find meaningful work, whether it's meaningful to themselves or to others, Park said. The community involvement of Life Works clients stretches across town.

On Monday mornings, clients together take time to help clean Denton’s Fred Moore Park, in a a partnership with another nonprofit, Keep Denton Beautiful.

“We picked that park because nobody wanted it,” said Cathy McGowan, the director of Life Works.

Throughout the week, clients work on craft projects, such as cutting plastic bags into "yarn" that a local crafter will weave into sleeping mats for the homeless in Denton County, or building birdhouses out of repurposed wood and retired license plates. 

The finished craft products  can be bought on Saturdays directly from their makers at Life Works' booth at the Denton Community Market. Profits go toward funding group outings, like trips to the movies, so that everyone who helped can reap the rewards of their hard work.

Life Works teaches clients beneficial skills that can be translated into real community involvement and integration, as well as a level of independence. For example, clients learn to cook their own meals and wash their dishes.

“I love it. I just love it all,” said Kelsey Bayer, a 28-year-old client at Life Works. Before she started attending the day-hab, which opened last fall, she didn’t know how to cook as many dishes or bake as many desserts as she does now. Now her favorite dishes to cook include spaghetti and pizza. 

“[Before] it was totally different," she said. "It changed my life, basically.”

McGowan said her job, like the mission of Life Works and Foxes Corner, is not about the money.

“Every day I go to work, I have a good day. It’s fun. It doesn’t feel like work,” said McGowan, who’s been working with people with disabilities on and off since she was 16.

Her concerns lie in making sure her clients and others with disabilities aren’t forgotten as adults — something she said she notices in today’s society.

“We want people to see the value in them being part of the community," McGowan said. “What could be better than going to work every day and doing that? There isn’t anything better than that. It’s really fun.”

KYLE MARTIN can be reached at 940-566-6897 or via Twitter at @Kyle_Martin35. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Life Works Community facility director Cathy McGowan stands in front of a group home called Foxes Corner. The house is roughly 3,000 square feet and has a backyard. (Jeff Woo/DRC)