The Bungalow On Columbia
The Bungalow On Columbia
In the middle of The Heights, there sits an adorably charming bungalow. With it’s wavy glass windows and craftsman railing, most would describe this house as quintessential. If you were to take a stroll down Columbia, this house wouldn’t stand out. Instead, it blends seamlessly into the eclectic, southern grace of the tall trees and historic scenes. But, this specific haven on Columbia is like no other. This place is full of color, life, and vibrancy. There are dainty flowers in the beds lining the porch and springtime pots that welcome you in, but that’s not what blossoms here. At this house, The Summerhouse, LIVES blossom!
On a regular week-day, you’ll find 16 of my friends and neighbors enjoying their day at The Summerhouse. As I am sure is true of your friends, each one of mine is different from the next. We all have different taste, desires, backgrounds, beliefs, goals, and hobbies. However, there are a few similarities that tie us all together. Because they are young adults (18-29), and they each have an intellectual disability, these 16 of my friends are all members of The Summerhouse. They come to this quaint space on Columbia to spend the day with their peers, focusing on vocational training and community integration. Like all people their age, these members need support to transition well into adulthood. The post-secondary education they receive at The Summerhouse is invaluable and life giving. Because of what they experience each day, my friends are making better connections with their neighborhood and blossoming into a thriving adulthood.
Donna, the founder and executive director of The Summerhouse, is someone I admire and look up to greatly. She knows all too well how difficult life would be without this Houston non-profit. Her daughter, Summer, is one of the original members of The Summerhouse… and the reason it exists. As their time in high school nears completion, the parents’ of kids with disabilities work to make plans for the future. Where will they go? What will they do? While on her quest for answers, Donna couldn’t find anything that fit Summer just right.
Summer has lived in The Heights her entire life. This is her neighborhood, and these are her people. Because she is a city girl, she loves taking advantage of every ounce of culture and diversity that Houston has to offer. Summer is one of the most genuine and loving people I have ever met. Someone as special as her needs a place where she can find continuous encouragement, support, and community without leaving the hustle and bustle of the city she loves. But, 6 years ago, that place didn’t exist.
With the weight of an incredible need, an audacious dream, and a handful of passionate people, Donna opened the doors to The Summerhouse in June of 2012. Since then, she has developed a highly qualified staff, added members to the community, spearheaded the ideas of a standard-raising program, and directed operations; all because she is a “gap filler”. There was a gap in her daughter’s life that needed to be filled, so Donna decided to fill it for her and as many people like her as she possibly could.
After seeing this crew in action around the neighborhood, and hearing more of Donna’s story, we knew that Village Heights had to partner with this organization.
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus said that whatever we do for “the least of these” we actually do for Him. What a sobering thought! One of the greatest things we can do to honor our creator is love His most cherished creations. There are people all around us that are constantly overlooked, individuals that are forgotten. If we truly want to live a Christ centered life, it’s our job to find those people and serve them well. That’s why we (Village Heights) created Action Groups!
Action Groups exist for three reasons…
- To help us discover more meaning and purpose on our faith journey.
- To give us an immediate opportunity to practice the things that we’re learning.
- To support lesser-known organizations in our city who are already doing good.
Based on regional patterns, The Office Of The Governor estimates that nearly 13% of the Texas population has some sort of disability. If we apply that math to our neighborhood, that’s over 2,000 people in less than 3 square miles. The Summerhouse is the only non-profit (that I know of) that is based in The Heights and working to support our intellectually disabled neighbors. That’s a BIG job! Because our church is Christ centered, community crafted, and audaciously generous, we did not hesitate to jump in with both feet to support our friends!
More than 30 people participated in our Spring Action Group, putting in countless hours over the past week to produce some amazing things for an incredibly deserving group. We began by gathering, planning, and fund raising for a new outdoor learning space, additional storage, and needed home maintenance around the house. Then, we showed up and got to work! From those in the community who donated materials, to the volunteers that put in sweat hours, to those who set a solid plan in motion from the very beginning, the list of those involved keeps growing. It’s so beautiful to see a diversely creative collection of people come together to support our neighbors.
I am so proud of my church and can’t brag enough on each person that contributed. However, the real heroes of this story are those at The Summerhouse who work every day to make our neighborhood more inclusive and integrated. They deserve so much more, but we are honored to have contributed in this small way!
By: Hannah White