Summer House, Inc. just held our 48th annual meeting this week and felt it was only fitting to reflect on how we got our start. It’s been a long road, but we wouldn’t be where we are today (thriving!) if we hadn’t experienced each and every twist and turn. Due to the pandemic, this past year in particular has been especially bumpy but it has shown that our organization is resilient as we continue to press on. Today, in preparation for our annual meeting and almost 50 years since the start of Summer House, we want to celebrate the families, volunteers, team members, administrators, and board members who all made this possible!
It all started back in 1973 with the vision of a young teacher from Greengate School for Exceptional Students by the name of Tom Monley. He had concerns for the rights and well-being of his students and wanted more options for students with developmental disabilities when they graduated.
With the support of several families, Tom came up with the idea of demonstrating that Greengate’s graduates could live far more independently than ever considered possible. Tom’s vision quickly turned into a reality, and a house was rented for six weeks as a pilot program to determine the feasibly of a home where people with disabilities could live with support. A volunteer staff was then formed, which included Tom Monley, his wife Peg Monley, Pat and Beth Monley, and Betsy Pruitt, a college student from Davis. This newly formed team invited six individuals to come live in the home for part of the summer. Some of those six individuals are still with the Summer House program today.
During those six weeks, the individuals’ families were invited to visit and see the home in action. The hope was for them to gain some insight into what was possible. At the end of six weeks, there were hugs and tears as the doors closed but what came next is what started this fantastic Summer House adventure and journey. With such strongly voiced opinions that those six residents needed a house, the pilot program became a reality. You can guess how “Summer House” got its name.
This was big, exciting news for the community: so much so that a Sacramento TV station filmed a documentary about our program. Unfortunately, within three weeks of opening, Summer House was sued by the neighbors. Fear and misunderstanding on the part of the neighbors made Summer House’s existence, to say the least…uncomfortable. The lawsuit became another big story in Yolo County, and again Summer House received a lot of media coverage. It also raised a fair amount of support for what Summer House was trying to accomplish and provide individuals with intellectual disabilities. One example of this was the late Judge Ackley (then an attorney) who defended Summer House’s cause and donated his services, stating that he would do so all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. In the end, Summer House agreed to a settlement and searched for a home that was more appropriate for housing both men and women.
With newfound notoriety and community support, which included a generous gift for the down payment from a local family to purchase a new home, Summer House was able to purchase a fourplex on 5th Street in Woodland. A new non-profit corporation was formed in December of 1974 called Summer House, Inc.
The opportunities the new home provided attracted many individuals who wanted to live more independently and enjoy the company of their peers while working on developing their daily living skills. With support and efforts from many community members, families such as the Monleys, Cronins, Furlans, Blickles, Peckhams, Littles, Garcias, and volunteers such as Orvis Agee. The four-plex was enlarged over several years and several remodels and today serves 12 residents.
In 1978 Summer House’s Independent Living Program was started. This program provided needed assistance to individuals who were attempting to live on their own in the community. In 1993, to meet the high demand for another home where people could remain in their community, a second residential care home in Davis was opened with the support of HUD funding. In the late ’90s our Community Living Program was started.
Today over 80 individuals are supported in our four Summer House programs. This all would not be possible if it was not for one man’s vision and the people who came together to make this possible. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is process, and working together is success.”
Tom & Peg Monley
Pat & Beth Monley