The message of L’Arche is essentially that through entering into relationship with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities our world can see an example of how to be transformed, one person at a time, into a more peaceful and compassionate society.

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Whether you are interested in joining our community as an assistant, building relationships with us as a volunteer, or sharing your gifts as a member of our board, there are numerous ways you can become a part of L’Arche Heartland accomplishing our mission. We are excited to welcome you!

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In order to continue being a witness to the transformative power of relationships with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we rely on financial support from generous donors. Thank you for sharing your resources with us as we journey towards a more compassionate society.

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"I don't understand how the universe was created, and I can't explain the spirit or presence of Jean Vanier. But maybe a story will have some meaning. I met Jean in the mid-1980's and had the good fortune to have several conversations with him over the years since then. One special meeting stands out. He had come to Kansas City, as I recall, for a Faith and Light retreat. Our deaf and developmentally disabled daughter Jennifer was in her teens and was beginning to show intermittent signs of anger outbursts, which we didn't understand then but later recognized was psychosis. She didn't have the language to describe her inner experience and only occasionally acted out, which occurred without warning, and that made it difficult to understand why. 

 I had the opportunity to meet privately with Jean in his room at the conference site and took Jennifer to meet him, too. Jennifer was calm...at first...and seemed interested in Jean and he in her. He offered her a bowl of ice cream and scooped some out for her. She loves ice cream. She ate a bite, then suddenly and violently threw the bowl on the floor, smashing it into pieces and sending ice cream everywhere. She raged as I attempted to restrain her. Jean seemed unconcerned. He began picking up shards of glass and wiping up ice cream as I apologized and apologized. I didn't recall that he tried to reassure me, and he didn't ask why she threw the ice cream. He very simply and patiently waited for the storm to pass, and I explained that this problem had been occurring without warning. We talked for a while longer, and he seemed entirely unbothered about what had happened. I asked him if he had any ideas about her, but he did not or did not share them. 

 In following years when I saw Jean at various L'Arche meetings, he asked about Jennifer, and we had conversations about other things, too. Someone told me Jean asked about me at a conference I couldn’t attend. This might seem unremarkable until one recognizes that Jean encountered an uncountable number of people in his life (though maybe my daughter was the only person ever to throw ice cream at him!) But the symbolism of a spiritual leader cleaning up at the feet of a wounded person did not escape me then or now. How is it, why is it that such a person walked on Earth and in our time. And what can we learn from him now in his passing."

- George Harris, Board Member


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L’Arche Heartland has partnered with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment to expand our network of local business for our door-to-door recycling service. By welcoming a small group of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities into their workplaces on a weekly basis to collect their recycling, these business partners are helping us move towards realizing the vision of a paid employment option for the persons in our day service.


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Sarah Engelmann has been a core member with L’Arche Heartland since 2009, when she first began attending our day service program at the Academy.  In 2014 she made the transition from living with Mom and Dad, to living at Harmony House, our newest home in the Heartland community. Because of her involvement with both the day service as well as residential side of our community, we were interested to hear what makes L’Arche special to her.

When asked what she likes about L’Arche Academy, she said “I just really enjoy it!” She was then asked what she enjoys about it. Her responses were endless: “I like singing and keeping the beat,” (referring to morning sing-along). She went on to say “I enjoy journal time, doing crafts with Ms. Carol, volunteering, and doing my music video at 11:30 on Friday mornings.” During the school year Sarah goes, once a week with a small group from L’Arche, to volunteer at Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries. There she helps to fill back packs with food in order that underprivileged children can take them home on the weekends, as a way to ensure they are fed. Volunteering is often the highlight of her week, aside from watching her videos or “vid’s,” as she refers to them.

We then went on to talk about her life at Harmony House and what it is that she likes about living there. When asked what she enjoys about it, she responded: “well I enjoy doing my coup work, and watching my vids,” (clipping coupons and watching music videos in her room). She was then asked if she liked her roommates, and she responded with a jubilant “Yeah!” When asked what she liked to do with her roommates she said “Prayer Night every Tuesday, then game night at Homer’s,” (a local coffee shop) “playing Farkel, having movie nights, and music therapy on Thursday.” She ended the interview saying, “I love L’Arche and all the activities. I’m glad I live here.” And if you were to ask the community you would find that we are glad she lives here too!

-Sarah Engelmann, Core Member