Innisfree Village was founded in 1971 by a group of parents in Maryland and Virginia who were searching for a progressive alternative to institutional care for their growing children with intellectual disabilities. They envisioned a place where they would share their lives with their caregivers and would be considered family members. Their children were only youngsters at the time, but these farsighted parents were preparing for the time when their offspring would be adults and would need the stimulation and satisfaction of living and working with others.
A peaceful rural setting
The search for an eventual home lead to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Central Virginia. With the purchase of a 400-acre farm outside the university town of Charlottesville, the Innisfree dream became a reality. Washington Post columnist George Will aptly described this pioneering community as an “outpost on a new frontier.”
In the beginning, Innisfree’s founding Executive Director, who shared the lifesharing vision of the original families, lived in a three-story farmhouse on the property with his own family and with two adults with disabilities. Within the first year, more families and individuals with disabilities joined the community, and construction began on a woodshop and a new residence.
Now more than four decades later, Innisfree has expanded to 550 acres, several therapeutic workstations, and 15 residential homes, two of which are in Charlottesville and serve Innisfree’s coworkers who participate in the local community in various ways.
Innisfree’s original blueprint has evolved as the needs of Innisfree’s coworkers, volunteer caregivers, and long-term staff have evolved. Innisfree regularly reviews its work with purposeful reflection to determine what refinements need to be made. Remaining flexible and open to change has kept Innisfree vibrant and engaging for everyone who calls Innisfree home.
For example, responding to the needs of its aging coworkers, Innisfree built a house in 1996 with the latest in “universal design” features. This house is well suited for coworkers who have become less mobile or less capable of tending to their daily needs.
The mission lives on
Throughout its more than four decades, Innisfree has retained the mission identified by the families who began the community: to provide a lifesharing home and work environment in an atmosphere of beauty, warmth, and respectfulness where all community members are valued, and all are encouraged to explore and contribute to a meaningful and challenging life.