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NonProfit Spotlight: A Loving Pillar of Support

Unique neighborhood provides an enriched life to the disabled

By The Lane Report

Pillar was founded in 1988 as Apple Patch Community with the goal of providing a family-atmosphere home for Kentuckians with developmental disabilities. In September 2018, it rebranded as Pillar, a name that better encompasses all the services and supports the organization provides to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The integrated neighborhood in Crestwood, Kentucky, is the only one of its kind in the United States.

What is the main goal of the organization?

Pillar supports people with intellectual disabilities so they can live a fulfilled and enriched life. We offer residential housing, four adult day program locations, transportation, and clinical behavioral services. We are one of the largest such nonprofits in the commonwealth supporting people with intellectual disabilities.

How did your organization get started?

Pillar was started in 1988 by a group of mothers who were concerned about who would care for their children with disabilities when they were no longer alive to care for them. This powerful idea borne out of love led to a partnership with advocate Max Appel and the Frank Otte family, who donated a large piece of land to build a community where people with intellectual disabilities would be accepted and celebrated.

Today, in a neighborhood of 99 houses, 17 homes are owned by Pillar. This one-of-a-kind neighborhood still serves some of the adult children of our founding parents. To our knowledge, this type of neighborhood exists nowhere else in the country.

Can you share a recent achievement or success story?

This year, Pillar completed our first capital campaign and paid off the mortgages on all 17 homes. Our homes were built with tax credits, and we were faced with refinancing mortgages at high interest rates, which would have negatively impacted our organization and the lives of the 200 people we serve every day. Due to many generous donors, Pillar raised $1 million in less than 18 months, paying off all mortgages and securing the homes for those with intellectual disabilities for many generations to come.

By securing these homes for the future, Pillar now can look to the future and begin the next phase of building affordable apartments to support people with disabilities. There is a shortage of affordable housing in Kentucky; particularly housing with the support that people with intellectual disabilities require. Currently, nearly 3,000 people are on a waiting list in Kentucky to receive residential support through Medicaid.

Pillar is a year-round program and is unable to offer summer-only options. The organization accepts referrals for individuals seeking Medicaid waiver-based services. If you are a waiver recipient or their guardian who is interested in receiving services, contact your case manager or support broker and ask them to send a participant referral to [email protected].

What are the primary challenges your organization faces?

Pillar must diversify its income stream and move from being 99% dependent on Medicaid funding while at the same time staying true to our mission of supporting individuals with disabilities. Thankfully, the generosity of the Otte family has made this possible. Pillar has more than 12 acres in Crestwood to develop. We are in the beginning stages of creating a vision to develop this land, potentially with retail opportunities and affordable apartments as options for those with disabilities.

The hardest part of my job is receiving calls almost daily from families in crisis who do not have safe, affordable housing for their adult children with intellectual disabilities,” Pillar Executive Director Karri Gerdemann said.

Pillar will take down this barrier and offer additional safe housing with technology options to support those with disabilities in their own homes. This will move the organization away from full dependence on Medicaid.

What are the current needs of the organization?

Pillar needs knowledgeable developers and building professionals to serve on a task force to advise on developing our remaining land. This selfless donation of their time and talent is needed so we can create a great plan that serves our community. Also, we are always in need of updated technology. We currently need new security camera systems for our 22 medication rooms, as well as new laptops.

How can people get involved?

Pillar was happy to announce that it is opening a fourth day program in West Louisville’s Russell neighborhood in 2024. No such resource exists in this community and Pillar is proud to remove barriers by opening this much-needed center. It is critical that we offer support for people with disabilities to decrease loneliness, isolation and exclusion.

To make a one-time or recurring financial contribution, please donate online bit.ly/4aDMfPR or contact hannah. [email protected]; (502) 741-6148. Pillar is a Better Business Bureau-accredited charity. Pillar is always looking for volunteers to visit our day programs, assist with maintenance for our homes and enrich the lives of those we are honored to serve.