Inclusion and Hospitality at St. Joseph’s House

Mike Jordan Laskey writes:

As far back as Joe LaHood can remember, there were young people with developmental disabilities at his home.

His mother, Cubby, had wanted to stay home with Joe when he was born, and she had experience working with kids with disabilities. So, she started caring for one child at their house in Silver Spring, Maryland, usually before or after school to help out the parents. Word spread. Soon, there were four, six, eight kids in the house. The work officially began in 1983.

Cubby and her husband, Dan LaHood, named the community St. Joseph’s House, after the quiet, steady caretaker who welcomed the infant Jesus. “The kids were my family,” Joe remembers. “They were my siblings. They were there when I got home from school. They were there when I was eating breakfast in the morning.” It wasn’t until Joe was in high school that he realized his childhood had been far from the norm….

Sadly, Cubby died of ovarian cancer in 2015. The family knew they wanted the work to continue somehow, but they didn’t have a long-term plan. Joe and Natalie were dating at the time of Cubby’s death, and were engaged a few months later. One of the big reasons they had initially hit it off was because Natalie shared Joe’s passion for accompanying individuals with developmental disabilities. She had spent time abroad serving in a home that was a lot like St. Joseph’s House and struggled to explain her experience to most people, until she met Joe. “We had this conversation — ‘You get me, our hearts are in the same place and we want the same thing,’” Natalie remembers. “Those conversations just naturally led to, ‘This is what we want in life and this is what we would want for our family.’”

So they started running St. Joseph’s House themselves, first at Joe’s childhood home. This past summer, after some renovations at their own house, Joe and Natalie moved the work there. Natalie is the executive director; Joe is a schoolteacher who is out of the house during the academic year. Their busiest time is the summer, when they run nine weeks of all-day camp full of art projects, exercise, education, and field trips. During the school year, they offer after-school care and “respite” time for parents on occasional weekends….

The connections between the St. Joseph’s House families are crucial because they can so often feel alone in their struggles, as Wayne and Robin Evans did in Wyatt’s earliest years. “To have a community for these kids and families who often have very little sense of community or a challenging sense of community, to have this be a place for them, that is our end, that’s our goal,” Joe says. “We want to build a community that is safe and loving for them and their families and to expand that community to the greater world. And the only way to do that is personal.”

You can read the full story here.