What is Noah’s Ark? Yes, it is a big boat built by Noah back in Bible times to avoid a world wide flood – but – that is not the Noah’s Ark I am talking about. Noah’s Ark is a living facility based in Lakeland, Florida that houses special needs adults. The purpose for Noah’s Ark is so that parents who can either no longer physically take care of their adult children or can not take care of them for other reasons, live in peace by knowing their children are being cared for.
The organization’s mission statement is as follows: Noah’s Ark is committed to empowering individuals who have developmental disabilities by advocating on their behalf and by providing or facilitation choices of meaningful employment, recreational and social opportunities and affordable housing in an inclusive community of their choice.
The idea for Noah’s Ark was sparked in 1996 by five families who were worried about their developmentally disabled children’s futures. They were worried because they knew that the older they got, the less they would be able to care for their children. They were worried about where they would live, if they would have friends and socialize, would they have a reasonable quality of life, and who would care for them? Their worries became stronger when they found out that the State of Florida was not the highest on the charts for providing support services for individuals with developmental disabilities. It was also made known that those with developmental disabilities could only be assigned to a group home under the circumstances of the death of their parents, or until they were too old to care for them.
These families were determined to find an existing living facility that would give them a balanced and active lifestyle where they could meet friends and find employment or volunteer work and at the same time care for their health and physical needs. By 1997 Noah’s Ark was founded and by 1998 they had their mission statement defined.
It was then in 2001 that they partnered with the First United Methodist Church in Lakeland to fund and build their first living facility, and in 2003 that the first three residents moved in. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the city of Lakeland worked together to get 56 acres of residential development property in Lakeland. 2008 marked the year when The Villages of Noah’s Landing (Also known as Noah’s Nest) opened and in 2009 they amended a Florida law to provide flexibility for building homes.
Since then, Noah’s Ark has come quite far and it has all become what it is because of the dedication of one man: Jack Kosik. Jack Kosik is the Executive Director of Noah’s Ark and ultimately, he and only a handful of others, is doing all the work. When I asked him to tell me a basic idea of what he does at Noah’s Ark he basically told me, “everything.” He said that all throughout their start-up years, he was the one traveling back and forth to Tallahassee to get bills passed and land rights. He is the one who meets with potential families and residents. He even said that he is the one who “changes the light bulbs and unclogs the toilets” on an average day in the homes. It is reasons like this, which make his job difficult.
Now – here is where YOU come in: Jack simply does not have enough time or energy to do everything that needs to be done. He needs help. He stated that the most difficult part of his job is “attempting to handle too many priority projects with unrealistic timelines.” He told me that he has so many people giving him ideas and advice on what he should be doing, but what he wants is for those people to “roll up their sleeves and participate!”
So, you may be wondering, “What is there for me to do?” Well, first and foremost – they need your time. Like Jack told me, he frequently is the one who has to go in and change the light bulbs, so why not volunteer and do that for him?! As someone interested in volunteering myself, I asked Jack, specifically, what they need volunteers to do. He said they would love to have volunteers doing anything from teaching an arts and crafts class, or an exercise class, to being a chaperone on a field trip, or just simply being a friend to talk to.
Jack also said he has a strong need for some new PR and Marketing. A new website, brochures, logos, everything! They really just want to advertise Noah’s Ark to Central Florida…and eventually, everywhere! So if you have a talent in graphic/web design, or an interest in PR, then Noah’s Ark is where you want to be! To begin volunteering download and complete the Volunteer Time and Talent Survey to begin volunteering today!
Help Build the Ark
But besides volunteering your time and talents, Noah’s Ark, ultimately, needs money donations. They accept donations through the United Way, bequests, and cash donations. Help build Noah’s Ark even further and keep them going strong. This is an organization that truly needs to keep going and be a success so that families all around can be blessed by it.
So will you help build the Ark?