Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 20, 2013

New purpose for St. Joseph Center

Man raising funds to develop community for people with special needs.

Tipton — For 42 years, Chris Cleveland has had a special relationship with his developmentally disabled brother, Bally. He created the Bally Foundation last year to connect people with special needs and their caregivers to services and resources within 75 miles of Indianapolis. Now Cleveland wants to create a new resource, a community for families caring for special needs members.

In implementing the vision, the Bally Foundation will purchase the St. Joseph Conference and Retreat Center campus along Division Road, just north of Tipton, from the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph Conference and Retreat Center operated in Tipton beginning in 1888 and in the past operated an academy that taught thousands of children and as a convent. Its affiliates were instrumental in the founding of St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo.

The Congregation of St. Joseph announced in 2012 that it was closing the Tipton facility as a Catholic nunnery.

Cleveland, 46, is in the process of raising $3 million to purchase the site and to fund operations for several years.

He intends to create a community where the developmentally disabled and their families may live. Cleveland hopes to open the St. Joseph of Cupertino Community this fall.

Plans are to continue to use the third floor of the main building for a retreat center and to construct suites on the second floor for families.

Cleveland estimates 12 people with special needs will reside in the community when it opens. He said there are plans to build houses on the property where families can life and still be close to the resources they require.

“I wanted to connect people with special needs,” he said. “I want a community for people with special needs and for their families.”

The Bally Foundation is overseen by a five-member board and is working receive not-for-profit status through the IRS.

“It’s a great facility,” he said of the retreat center. “We want to continue the history, legacy and mission work of the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

Cleveland said he wants members of the local community to be involved with the center to show that people with special needs can have meaningful and productive lives.

“The Sisters do like our vision,” he said. “We’re in the process of raising the money.”

Cleveland said the Bally Foundation will hire staff to work with residents and their families and hire a company to manage the retreat center.

Tipton Mayor Don Havens said the community is enthusiastic about the project and several meetings have taken place with community groups.

“This is certainly a project I’m excited about,” Havens said. “It would be a great fit for the center, our community and the region.”

The mission of the center is similar to that the Sisters had for a long time, he said.

Havens said the Bally Foundation has asked the city for support and to provide estimated costs for utilities at the site.

“Without Bally’s interest in the property, the community wouldn’t know the future of the site,” he said. “This is something easy to get excited about.”

The Retreat Center is planned to have a cafeteria and Cleveland would like to bring in guest chefs prepare meals once a month for the residents of the community.

Plans are for the gymnasium to be remodeled to be used for art classes.

“Being a family with someone with special needs sets you apart,” Cleveland said. “We want the family to be together as a unit. There is no cure. Families could live together on the campus.”

He said families could rest easy knowing there are capable caregivers on site to care for their loved ones.

“We don’t want them to be isolated,” Cleveland said. “We want to be a part of the Tipton community.”

Cleveland hopes to eventually grow Christmas trees and pumpkins on the property and would like to bring a train from the Indiana State Fairgrounds to Tipton so people could support the center.

“Make it kind of like a Polar Express trip to Tipton to buy a Christmas tree or to buy pumpkins in the fall,” he said.

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