A few years ago, parents of a 19 year old special needs daughter set out on their annual “State of the Union” anniversary dinner. The “State of the Union” tradition was to discuss what happened the previous year and then look forward and make plans for the coming year and beyond. It’s a good way to live intentionally instead of being ruled by the most urgent day to day stuff that keeps us from looking up.
That year, the couple realized their daughter would graduate in the next year from a wonderful school that had provided so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic to its students. So then, what would come next? What were the independence options for a trusting child in a grown-up body? Was there a facility or program that could provide a college-like experience but in a safe environment? How about education to keep skills sharp? What about clubs that could provide a variety of social interactions and self-expression outlets? What about work? What about the arts?…?…?….? The couple didn’t want to see the enthusiasm and joy for life die out in their child.
The search began. There were online searches that proved the existence of communities that offer some or even all of the criteria they wanted. But, hey, why wasn’t there something close to home in Tampa Bay where their daughter’s support group was? More searching, many phone calls and loads of discussions with other parents in the same boat brought about a realization: There is a great need in our community for a facility that provides all of these Wish List items under one canopy. And thus began The Banyan Odyssey.
The model is a non-profit residential facility resembling a college dormitory, with Resident Assistants to help and guide. The residence is to be near the Social Enterprise which will employ residents and also supplement the cost of operations. A Social Enterprise exists to support and sustain a not for profit corporation. It should allow the non-profit entity the freedom not to be dependent upon government funding in a way that would cripple operations if the funding is cut. The Social Enterprise in this case will capitalize on our proximity to Florida beaches and join the profitable tourism market.
Check out this blog post to see the progress we are making!
How on earth did the name “The Banyan Odyssey” come about?
In Spring of 2015, the Williams’ threw out a challenge to facebook friends. Whoever could come up with a name that captured the essence of this endeavor would win a $100 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. It was a fun and frenzied week of intense brainstorming and lively competition.
Finally, a precious friend from India offered the “Banyan Tree”. Shini said in her country, “the banyan is a powerful symbol of deep-rooted strength, shelter, beauty, growth and expansion. It is a welcomed place of rest for the weary, a haven for those seeking refreshment and renewal.” What a powerful picture of what this entity can provide for its residents as well as the guests who come here to vacation!
And finally, “Odyssey.” Every parent of a child with any type of disability will tell you that every single day is an adventure. You don’t know if your heart will break for the painful circumstances you and your child grow through together (and some they have to experience alone), or if you will be caught be an overwhelming moment of joy and wonder that God could entrust this special person to your family. An odyssey is a journey—usually a long one—that’s full of unexpected twists and turns. If we’re fortunate, we find others who are navigating the same waters and travel together.
So here is your invitation to join us for The Banyan Odyssey. You may be a parent seeking a future home for your young adult, or at least a place for your child to socialize occasionally in the context of an accepting community. Maybe you need a support system of other adults for your own well-being. Maybe you are looking for a cause that is long-term and you want to support it financially or with your talents. Perhaps the Banyan can offer you a place of deep roots, growth and refreshment. Let’s start the next leg of this odyssey together!
Social Enterprise Mission:
Hotel Sharing Property with Residents
- To financially support The Banyan Odyssey mission
- To provide a safe haven for The Banyan Odyssey residents to work
- Opportunities planned: Front Desk, Reservations, Concierge, Gift Shop, Restaurant/Food Service, Laundry Service, Landscaping, Office Work, etc.
- As a fully operational hotel in Pinellas County
- As an accessible barrier-free vacation destination for all age groups