Community Options improving lives
Oct 14, 2019 03:30PM
By Carl Fauver
The Taylorsville location of Community Options currently serves about 18 adults and adolescents with disabilities. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
A leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing and employment support to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is continuing to thrive out of its modest Taylorsville strip mall location.
Community Options, Inc. was founded 30 years ago in New Jersey. For the past 2 1/2 years, it has operated out of Utah locations in Ogden and Taylorsville (2964 West 4700 South, Suite 107).
“Everyone can be employed in one form or another,” said Community Options Regional Director, John Peck. “We custom train people for a variety of work opportunities. We look for niches, so they can best serve society and themselves. It is a struggle sometimes. But we nearly always find some type of meaningful work for those who want it.”
A Utah native and Brigham Young University graduate, Peck moved his wife and four children from Hurricane to Layton earlier this year to fill a regional director position that had not existed previously. He now oversees Community Options sites in Ogden and Taylorsville, along with two more in Arizona.
Community Options Founder, President and CEO Robert Stack is confident creating the new $60,000 to $100,000 position (salary range based on education and experience) will help right his organization’s ship in our state.
“With (Peck’s) acumen and vision, we will move things forward,” Stack said from his New Jersey headquarters. “Our Utah and Arizona sites have struggled, and we are in a deficit position. But I am very excited about the culture and people in Utah. The state government wants to work with us. I am optimistic about the future.”
Nationwide, across 11 states, Community Options’ 5,500 full- and part-time employees serve about 3,700 people with disabilities and their families.
Here in Utah, about 40 people are served by the organization’s 25 full- and 25 part-time employees. Roughly twice that many, 80, are served in Arizona. Community Options operates three rented “group homes” in the Ogden area and a fourth in the west Salt Lake Valley, near 5000 South 5600 West.
Madison Facemyer, 28, is one of three women now living in the Salt Lake County home.
“I have been coming here since January because we do a lot of fun activities,” Facemyer said. “I hope to work in day care or providing care to dogs.”
Madison and her housemates receive 24-hour care and assistance at their group home, where meals are prepared for them.
“But we have to make our own beds and keep our rooms clean ourselves,” she said.
Community Options housing residents pay a fee for room and board. But costs for socializing and employment training services they receive are taxpayer-funded.
Community Options’ annual budget is roughly $1.5 million in Utah and $3.5 million in Arizona. About 65% of its total funding is federal through Medicaid, while 35% is state-funded. Here in Utah, the state portion of their budget comes almost exclusively through one state agency.
“About 90% of our annual Utah funding is through the state Division of Services for People with Disabilities, while the other 10%comes from the state office of Rehabilitation,” Peck said.
Stack believes taxpayers are well-served by his organization.
“Because we are one incorporated entity across the country, our administrative costs are less than 11% of our total budget,” he said. “I don’t foresee expanding into additional states anytime soon, due to cost concerns.”
Long before Peck’s hiring a few months ago, Shannon Wilkins joined the Utah Community Options office shortly after its spring 2017 opening. She is now its employment services director.
“Since 2009, my career focus has been on helping to provide employment opportunities for those with disabilities,” Wilkins said. “I was self-employed in the field for a time. But it is nice to now have the backing of a larger corporation.”
Wilkins also helps coordinate Community Options fundraising events, including a recent food truck rally and their annual “Cupids Chase 5K fun run,” scheduled for Feb. 8, 2020.
To learn more about Community Options, Inc. visit www.comop.org. For local inquiries, call 801-878-9427.