Don Smith and Billie Kramme Advocates for Community Change Bethel Hills

Don Smith, left, Advocates for Community Change board member, and Billie Kramme, ACC president, stand outside the chapel at the former RockyVine Catholic Camp March 8. Advocates for Community Change has purchased the former camp property and plans to turn the land into a community for people with disabilities and their advocates.

A multihome development designed so people with and without disabilities can live together will debut this month with a ribbon cutting and dedication Sunday.

In March, Advocates for Community Choice, a local nonprofit, purchased a 127-acre site from the Catholic Camps of America, according to previous Missourian reporting. There, the organization is building Bethel Hills Community, a residential community of private duplexes and apartments that will feature common areas such as a chapel, gym and event center intended to promote social interaction. Billie Kramme, president of Advocates for Community Choice, declined to say how much the group spent on the property or construction but said it was primarily funded through grants and donations and that when it opens to residents, it will be funded by rent income.

According to the group, there are approximately 41,000 adults in Missouri with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and about 50 percent of them live with family caregivers. Of those, about 25 percent rely on a family caregiver who is over 60 years old. The group hopes this community will give them an alternative living situation.

The dedication will begin Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a ribbon cutting and tours of the property, Kramme said. “We’ve had the property for about seven months, and we wanted to give the community a chance to see it,” she said.

Kramme said she expects the first two duplexes and apartments to be completed this month and filled shortly thereafter. By spring, the group hopes to have another 15 people living in the community, and Kramme said they already have those leases signed. Most of these residents come from the local area, but Kramme said people from all over are welcome. After spring, the group will begin a second phase of construction and eventually a third. Plans call for more than 70 people to live in the community when construction and renovations are completed.

“Our goal is to provide the safest environment possible for our IDD (intellectual or developmental disability) residents but also for the general public,” said Michael Rea, board member at Advocates for Community Choice. 

Bethel Hills is currently accepting lease applications, Kramme said.