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Summer House celebrates 40 years of family

It's karaoke time as Summer House residents Mary Harris, left, Tom Keller and Kate Acree sing and dance to "Hakuna Matata." The residential program for developmentally disabled adults is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | July 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

Summer House is pretty much like any other house in Davis — neighbors may hear some enthusiastic karaoke or glimpse copies of various masterpieces on the walls.

Ask any of the 12 residents and you get nearly the same response, “It’s a great place to live.”

Mary Harris has lived at Summer House for 30 years and is very proud of it. Not only is her father the president of the board, but she also has spoken on behalf of Summer House and the Special Olympics, something the Davis Summer House participates in heavily.

Summer House Inc, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on Sunday, is a home for people with developmental disabilities. The first house opened in July 1973 with four residents for a six-month pilot program.

The 40th anniversary celebration will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at Hotel Woodland, 436 Main St. The party is for residents, former and current staff, board members and family along with people from the community. Former Woodland Mayor Gary Sandy will speak and Summer House will be honored by the California state senate and assembly.

The first Summer “House” was acquired in Woodland in 1974 and since then the program has expanded, adding an Independent Living Program, Supported Living Program, and in 1993 building the Summer House in Davis.

In Davis, there are a dozen residents and one respite “drop-in” room. There is art created by the residents everywhere, courtesy of a staff member who was an art history major. A grant from St. Martin’s Episcopal Church funds the art at Davis Summer House.

In addition to painting, Harris makes her own jewelry and loves Hello Kitty, something one of her newer housemates, Kate Acree, also enjoys.

Acree has been at the Davis Summer House for only a few months.

“When I was living with my parents I was the only person there, but now I get to be social and I like it a lot,” Acree said. “(The residents are) like my family now.”

All of the residents follow a similar schedule. In the morning, most leave for either their jobs or programs where they work on skills like reading and writing.

Some residents, like Amy Sanchez, who has been living at Summer House since 2006, have jobs during the day. Sanchez works at the dining commons at UC Davis. Acree will be starting her job in Sacramento in August.

When everyone is home from their respective responsibilities, some residents and staff prepare dinner, which is family-style. Dinner is the only time all of the residents are urged to participate. After dinner there are activities such as art, movie nights, karaoke or Wii. Some residents also enjoy participating in girls or guys nights.

Last week, residents went to the State Fair. They planned the trip at one of their weekly residents’ councils, which meets every Tuesday to discuss upcoming activities and outings along with making decisions, such as what will — or won’t — be on the upcoming menu.

About 75 people are supported in some way by Summer House Inc. Individuals associated with the house typically fall under four different types of developmental disabilities: MMR (mild mental retardation), cerebral palsy, chromosome disorders (one example being Down syndrome) or anything that is similar to mental retardation. Facilities can readily accommodate residents with vision, hearing and mobility issues.

At Summer House, a wide age of ages are represented. Some residents move in after high school and others move in when they need new caretakers — perhaps after their guardian or parent dies — and are typically older.

“People stay with us until they’re about 65, and that’s just because they need something more medical-based,” said Summer House Executive Director Erin Plank-Ryan.

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