Most people can’t begin to understand the challenges parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities face on a day-to-day basis, nor would they experience the depth of fear that comes with worrying about what will happen to their child once they are no longer around to take care of them. Such is the case for mother, advocate, and founder of Two Sparrows Village, Jennifer Conforti. She tells us, “Hundreds of thousands of families, in this country alone, feel the weight of this and more on a daily basis.”
Jennifer prayed without ceasing for God’s guidance. She asked, “Lord, I feel like an airplane circling Hartsfield Jackson. Will you please light up my runway? I don’t know where to land. I don’t know where to go. Tell me what to do.” In January 2017, the seed was planted and Jennifer was well prepared with perseverance and the relational equity to nurture and bring to fruition a newly built community for adults with disabilities: Two Sparrows Village. She says, “You can create what you imagine when people with the right skills, experiences, and heart come together with a shared vision.”
Nestled right in the middle of Christian City’s 500-acre campus is the place where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities call home and experience the supportive, life-enhancing benefits of community. The first Two Sparrows Village cottage is made possible through a partnership with Christian City, a not-for-profit organization that provides vibrant living, life-changing hope, and a community of loving friends. Jennifer is overwhelmed with gratitude when she reflects on the support for her vision. “Christian City is truly a dream come true for community living.” She continues, “Not one person in any municipality here told me ‘no'. It was encouraging for me to be in a community where people really did want to help.” November 1, 2022, was the five-year anniversary of Two Sparrows Village.
Currently, there are four high-functioning residents living independently in the Two Sparrows Village cottage, and leadership is well aware of how great the need is. According to the organization’s Executive Director, Jacque Thornton, “We’ve got to get more inventory. There are 38 on the waiting list. We have a goal to expand to have at least 16 units on the Christian City campus by 2024.” In addition, the organization is working towards making housing available not only to those who are high functioning on the autism and IDD spectrums, but to also begin to develop where they have personal care and even full care levels.
A continuum of care best describes the Two Sparrows Village model at Christian City. Residents can go from one stage of care to another, in a life plan continuum. Jacque explains, “Live here lifelong — reach age 55 and income eligible, or as they age and their health requires a different level of care, a resident can apply to move into other areas of the campus and never have to leave their community.”
The long-term vision for the organization is to have a Two Sparrows Village, in partnership with retirement communities that have every level of care, within 200 miles of every major city in the United States. Both Jennifer and Jacque are like-minded and like-hearted in their belief that, “We can have the things we set our minds and hearts to.” It takes audacious faith to step out and proclaim a goal of this size. Jennifer shares openly, “My faith was extremely tested for so long, but it never left me and God never let go of me, and thankfully I never let go of Him.”
While Jacque Thornton is part of the magic that happens at Two Sparrows Village, she is joined by two other amazing professionals. Lora Daniels, the Program Director, and Dwon Johnson who serves as the Resident Concierge. Jennifer regards this talented team as outstanding in their respective areas of expertise, as well as trustworthy and loving. Jennifer’s daughter Abby was diagnosed with a congenital brain defect at the age of two and then a year later with severe autism. Jennifer feels encouraged. “I can see Abby living independently, with round-the-clock care, in a home-health kind of situation, but in the right space with the right people and really capable staff who know how to work with kids like Abby. That gives me great hope and immeasurable peace of mind.”
The goal at Two Sparrows Village is for residents to grow beyond what they’ve done in their home environment with their parents, and learn how to improve and live independently. There is a myriad of ways to get involved with Two Sparrows Village. The emphasis is on donations and the need for people to come alongside them to help with the building process. Their list of activities and community engagement opportunities can be found on their website at TwoSparrowsVillage.org.
Jacque’s son is on the autism spectrum and the ADD spectrum. “I just want people to make space for someone who’s different. I don’t care what that difference is. Make space and time and watch your life change.”
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” - Matthew 10:29-31
Jennifer wants every resident to know that they are worth more than many sparrows.