1972: PLANNING VINE VILLAGE:
George and Grace Kerson's daughter, Debbie, was getting ready
to graduate from St. Vincent's School in Santa Barbara, CA, and they were concerned by the paucity of
choices for her as a young adult. During this time they visited Camphill Village
in New York, The Lambs in Chicago, and various kibbutzim in Israel. These experiences got
them thinking about creating new opportunities for Debbie and others like her.
They wanted Debbie to have every opportunity and encouragement
to continue to grow and learn, and they wanted her to feel safe, secure, and
valued. They envisioned a residential program that would encourage
continual learning and the development of as much independence as much as
possible for the individual, while also providing needed support and assistance.
They wanted a True Home with close family-like human relationships. They wanted
opportunities to feel valued and useful, and to perform meaningful and relevant
work, regardless of an individual's abilities or disabilities. Most of all, they
wanted an atmosphere of Respect and Dignity for all individuals.
A rural or semi-rural location was sought, so that
self-support programs such as gardening and vineyard farming could be conducted.
Since Debbie was an ardent horse buff, they also wanted a place where horses and
similar pets could be kept.
In the early 1970's, there were only a couple of choices for a
person with developmental disabilities. There was the State Hospital, there were
a few scattered private institutions modelled after the State Hospital in many
ways, and there
was living at home. ( This was the early days of the Lanterman Act, and Group
Homes were just starting to be created, but the Kersons and Bagnanis did not
choose these for their children.)
The State Hospital was out of the question for the Kersons.
Having Debbie live at home into her adult years was also undesirable, for a
number of reasons:
1. It would keep Debbie forever in "Little
Kid" mode, maintaining old patterns of dependency and lack of autonomy.
2. A forced out-of-home placement in
later years, due to a parent's perhaps sudden incapacity to continue to care for
Debbie at home, would be most traumatic.
The Kersons wanted to be proactive.
They wanted moving out to be a positive step that Debbie could view proudly as a
milestone of growing up, just as her older brothers had moved out on their own
when they became young adults.
A like-minded friend was Dante Bagnani. One night in the
autumn of 1972, George presented his ideas to Dante. Without a moment's
hesitation, Dante replied, "Let's do it!"
So they began looking for a location for their dream program.
In December, they put a down payment on a beautiful horse ranch in the Carneros
region of southern Napa County.
This property was purchased from Frances Stearns\Coronap Corp
in late 1972.
Timeline for the '70's | 1972-74 | 1973-74 Newsletters | 1974-76 | 1976-77 | 1978-79 | 1980-89 | 1990-99 | 2000-2009