Updated on 07.31.14

The Simple Dollar’s Christmas Charity Drive 2007: L’Arche Tahoma Hope

Trent Hamm

Each year at Christmastime, I identify a particular charity that fills an important need in a community. I usually choose one that I have a personal connection to, having visited the facility and/or have had a close friend or family member working there, and the charity must be in line with my personal values of helping people who truly need help. If you wish to give a Christmas gift to charity this year, I truly hope you’ll consider this group.

L’arche Tahoma Hope is a small group of four homes in the Tacoma, Washington area. These homes open their doors to adults with mental development disorders, providing them a place to live in a communal environment with their peers and with a staff that lives on-site with them. typical home consists of four to ten people – assistants plus “core members,” where core members refers to the developmentally challenged individuals living there.

I’ve personally visited one of these homes. The one I visited had six developmentally disabled individuals living there, along with five assistants. At any given time during waking hours, two to three of those assistants were always involved with working with the core members.

What did they do? The home had a very large garden, and the assistants and core members all worked together as a group in that garden, raising vegetables and flowers that they would either consume themselves or sell to the public as a fundraiser. The more technical tasks were performed by the assistants and they also provided a lot of emotional support and friendship to the core members, who were largely involved with picking the vegetables and weeding and such.

The group also made paper mache flower pots for the plants out of flour, colored water, and newspaper. These actually turned out quite well, and if it were not for the fact that I was thousands of miles from home, I would have purchased one for myself.

At meal times, all of the core members and all of the assistants that were present would eat together around a large table as a group, sharing food and talking about their day.

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the spiritual fortitude or patience to do this job. I simply could not live there with the patience required day in and day out, and I am deeply thankful that there are people out there who do have that kind of patience and caring for others.

The truth is that most people don’t have that level of patience and most families do not have the support structure that is needed to provide for individuals with mental development disorders. For the most part, these individuals come from loving families who simply recognize that they don’t have the patience or the ability to truly care for them.

These homes provide a quality of life for individuals with mental development disorders that they simply could not find anywhere else in the world. They’re in an environment with their peers, where they’re not seen as outcasts, and with individuals who care enough about their situation to wish to live there and help them in many one-on-one situations.

I know that if I had a child with similar disabilities, I would truly hope that in adulthood, they could find a situation like L’arche to live in, and I am truly thankful that such places do exist and that there are people out there with enough spiritual and mental strength to work and live there, making a better life for people who weren’t given the same tools and abilities we were given at birth.

If you’re thinking of making a charitable donation this year for Christmas, please consider donating to L’arche Tahoma Hope Community. Take some time to visit their website and find out more about the amazing and life-transforming work that goes on there.

Furthermore, I will match all donations by my readers, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000 between now and December 25, 2007. All you have to do is donate to L’arche Tahoma Hope Community via JustGive.org and then forward the receipt of your donation to me – you can delete any personal information from this receipt if you wish. So, if you donate $20 to L’arche Tahoma Hope this year, I’ll match it and that gift becomes $40, and so on.

If you’d like, you can read about my 2006 charity drive for the Child Abuse Prevention Center of Dallas County, Texas.

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  1. junger says:

    Great post, Trent. Personally, I grew up with a developmentally disabled sister, and it wasn’t always easy.

    Thankfully, she has both of my parents who love her and are there for her, but not everyone is in this situation.

  2. Laura G says:

    A close friend of mine worked with L’Arche in Syracuse for a year as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corp. It was an incredible experience for him, and an incredible service for the residents (and he also met his fiancee there…). Thank you, Trent!

  3. NiJaal says:

    Wow. Thats very kind of you Trent.

    I have been looking for a few places to donate lately. I like the sound of this one.

  4. Wow, what an opportunity. I had a relative that was slated to go into an assisted living center like this when his parents died but he beat them to it. Fortunately the home is well funded and should have plenty of other opportunities to take care of folks there.

  5. Michelle McClintock says:

    Why would you want to put them in a segregated situation? I’m physically crippled from cerebral palsy and I’ve been fighting all my life to prove I’m not mentally retarded. L’Arche is just another group home which I hope I never live long enough to go to, and I’m almost 48. If people with disabilities were really valued as people, then institutions and group homes would never exist and people wouldn’t be encouraged to give their disabled family members up at any age. Society has a long way to go, but it won’t happen in my lifetime.

  6. Daisy says:

    Someone dear to me is in a home like that as well. I agree about not having the patience to work in a place like that daily. But I’m glad there are places like this that make these people feel at home.

  7. BigRed says:

    My younger daughter is severely autistic and will probably need a place like L’Arche if our family is unable to care for her at some point in the (far, far) future. I am glad to know about this charity and will certainly direct holiday giving there!

    I have the patience to care for my daughter, but wow, it takes a special strength and fortitude to care for the developmentally disabled who are not your own kids, or even relatives. These folks are blessings to families like ours

  8. Tall Bill says:


    CP is NOT mental & no doubt you have seen other types of care ie: physical therapy over the years. All types of disabilities are out there and in SOME cases care givers 24-7 are required. Trent will see my reciept today for matching. God Bless you with your life in your world.

  9. Deila says:

    MANY years ago, I worked for P.A.R.C. (Pinellas Association for Retarded Children) in Florida for about 1.5 years. The turnover of workers there was amazing, and you were considered a long timer if you were there over a year!

    The burn-out was never physical, but mentally and emotionally. The attachments the clients have on the workers, always being short staffed and having to pull double shifts 4 days out of the week, only having 2 days off a month. It is EXTREMELY difficult to ‘leave your work at work’ when you interact with, and grow to love, the people you work with.

    It also takes it’s toll on you when you see the clients whose family doesn’t come to visit. It is heartbreaking!

  10. Paula Olson says:

    Thank you very much, Trent, for extending to people the opportuntity to participate in the mission of L’Arche Tahoma Hope. I note from the comments that many people are unaware of us. As Board President, I am delighted and proud to tell readers a little more about us.

    We are part of an international federation of people, with and without developmental disabilities, who share life together in communities. We embrace all races, creeds and ethic groups. Because our members with developmental disabilities are the core of our communities, we call them our “core members,” and those who do not have those developmental disabilities, our assistants. We celebrate the gifts of our core members and assistants and recognize that we need one another for fulfilling lives. We believe that our life together will foster a more human society.

    We are not group homes or assisted living facilities; we are not institutions. Other than financial support some of our core members receive from governmental entities, we are self supporting. A great number of our assistants worldwide are volunteers. At our community, our core members and assistants operate a farm and garden where we sell produce, plants, and flowers. Other core members make paper products such as greeting cards, note pads, and other crafts. Still other core members hold jobs in the private sector.

    Our board is raising funds to provide retirement options for those assistants who have lived in our community the majority of their adult lives and to pay for the upkeep and improvements of our four homes. We consider anyone who supports us financially as part of our community and all are welcome!

    I am happy to answer any questions and I and our community thanks anyone who participates in our mission by supporting us financially.

  11. Kathy says:

    This is a nice way to give at Christmas but I would like to point out something that Paula doesn’t mention. L’Arche programs in Washington State are licensed as Adult Family Homes and recieve a substantial amount of money from the state to provide these services to the individuals with developmental disabilities in their program. Most clients are funded on average between $350-$400 per day. This money is used to provide paychecks to the staff that support the clients as well as cover administrative expenses the program may have. Several assistants are volunteers with L’Arche and do not receive anything more than a small stipend and room and board. It makes one wonder where all the money goes? There are several other agencies in Washington state, well over 150, that provide this same service and manage to pay all their staff.

    I realize this comment is coming late as it is almost March but I would recommend that if people want to contribute to these kinds of programs that they find out if there is a way to directly contribute to the clients. This is where the real need is. Most people with developmental disabilities survive on SSI of about $600 a month. L’Arche collects most of this from the client and leaves the client with about $55 a month to spend on things such as clothing, entertainment, toiletries, furniture, anything extra, etc.

    And to add a note for clarity, Cerebral Palsy is considered a developmental disability and can affect a person’s mental capacity although it often does not. It is not fair to disregard this disability as less significant than one that involves a diminished mental capacity. And, Michelle is right, the real movement is out of group situations like this and into normal living situations where clients live and work and play just like the rest of us.

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