Lawrence-based Village of Merici receives gift

Colleen Renie displays the Village of Merici apartments in Lawrence. (Photos by Anna Skinner)

Two gifts of $600,000 and $500,000 will allow the Village of Merici to expand its services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The first gift of $600,000 came from Dan and Betsy Brunette two years ago and allowed the organization to purchase a building within Lawrence’s Fort Benjamin Harrison, just north of its current building at 5707 Lawton Loop E. Dr. Recently, the Brunettes donated another $500,000 to help launch the Village of Merici’s capital campaign to redevelop the new building. An estimated $9 million in renovations are needed.

The Village of Merici has rented out Merici Village Apartments in its first building since 2014.

“We developed this project, Merici Village Apartments, to use rental-housing tax credits to develop affordable housing,” Village of Merici Executive Director Colleen Renie said. “It’s based upon the individual’s income.”

The Merici Village Apartments has 20 units: 16 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments. The Village of Merici provides services to its residents and to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Indianapolis area and surrounding counties.

“There’s not much turnover,” Renie said of the renters. “We have an interest list of over 200 and no openings in the past two years.”

When complete, the new building will have 38 apartments.

“We have a lot of common areas (at the current building) that don’t get used as much, so people from (the new) building can come down here and use those,” Renie said. “The housing needs are so significant in the Indianapolis area that we are trying to maximize how much housing we can get. It’s mostly all one-bedrooms. The roommate situation can be challenging for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they prefer individualized apartments.”

Betsy Brunette serves on the board of the Village of Merici, and she and her husband decided to donate the two gifts to the Village of Merici after realizing families were worried about what would happen to their adult children with disabilities when the parents were no longer away.

“(At the Village of Merici), I get the feeling those individuals feel that’s their family, they support one another in terms of emotionally and they get guidance in other things, and there’s a great need for more housing like that,” Betsy said. “(My husband Dan) is getting near retirement years, and we had some funds to work with and decided that would be a good way to leave a legacy.”

It took three years for the organization, which is working on financing, to purchase the new building. Renie said the goal is to open it in two years. The Village of Merici officials also are working on a new project in Carmel called North End, which is a partnership between the Village of Merici, Merchants Affordable Housing and Old Town Company.

North End will be at Smoky Row Road, the Monon Trail and U.S. 31.

“That one is a 240-unit complex,” Renie said. “It will be ready in 18 months to two years.”

The affordable units will be available for adults with disabilities.

In addition to housing, the Village of Merici provides other services as well. The services are based on individuals’ needs.

“Some people may need help with money management to individuals needing 24/7 support,” Renie said. “We have a whole range of individuals. The idea is providing independent apartments with the support they need to be successful. For some, that might be menu planning, grocery shopping, money management, cooking skills, housekeeping, transportation, a little bit of everything.

“Our services are all designed to have the individuals be able to live in the community and be a very integral part of the community,” Renie said. “They have their own lease, and it’s renewed every 12 months. No one is placed here. They choose to live here. The rents are very sustainable based on their income, and most everyone works at least part time.”

From left, life skills coach Suzie Cole helps Merici Village Apartments resident Mary McClamroch write thank-you notes with Village of Merici Executive Director Colleen Renie.

Why Lawrence

Village of Merici Executive Director Colleen Renie said Merici Village Apartments residents pay for their own food, clothing, cellphones and rent. And being in Lawrence is beneficial.

“This Lawton Loop area is such a walkable neighborhood,” she said. “There’s banks, there’s restaurants, there’s job opportunities. They don’t need a car, and only two people we support drive. Most individuals we support aren’t able to drive, so transportation is very limited.”

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