Mission

In 1987, L’Arche Heartland began a journey where persons with and without intellectual disabilities began sharing their life in community and became a member of the International Federation of L’Arche. As we continue to trust God in our journey, our mission is to:

Make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships.

Foster an environment in community that responds to the changing needs of our members, while being faithful to the core values of our founding story.

Engage in our diverse cultures, working together toward a more human society.

L'Arche Heartland focuses on relationships and recognizes that every individual regardless of his or her ability has a gift to share with our world.  Through sharing daily life, we strive to discover and share these gifts with the broader community of Johnson County.  We gather regularly as a community to foster relationship with one another as we create a place of belonging for people of all abilities.

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Our Programs

Homes – L’Arche Heartland shares daily life across five homes with sixteen core members (adults with intellectual disabilities).  Core members share these homes with assistants (men and woman without intellectual disabilities who choose to share a season of their lives living in mutual relationships with core members).  Core members and assistants all contribute to the rhythm and life of the home, planning menus together, shopping, preparing meals, completing household responsibilities, as well as leisure activities.  Our houses are vibrant places full of laughter, music, and prayer.             

Academy— In 2008, L’Arche Heartland branched into providing day service supports by opening L’Arche Academy.  Core members and assistants gather five days a week to pursue activities focused on creative expression.  Each core member can choose individual interests that he/she would like to more fully develop.  Examples of activities include: visual arts, music, journaling, story writing, reading skills, math skills, foreign language, puzzles, and games.

Green Express Studio— With a desire to diversify our day service supports as well as increase our presence in the local area, the Green Express Studio became a part of L’Arche Heartland in 2015.  Across our two day service options we create meaningful daytime activity for thirty core members.  Green Express Studio teaches employment skills, life skills, and cares for the environment as we form relationships across abilities.  We are currently creating partnerships with other businesses in Johnson County for core members to collect the businesses’ aluminum, plastic, and paper recycling.  We have a location where these recycled materials are then taken, sorted, and prepared for the recycling center.  All revenue generated from the recycling program is shared among the participants who choose this activity.  Other activities we participate in are volunteerism through various organizations (meals on wheels, animal shelters, community centers, food banks) as well as providing social and leisure activities on a regular basis. 

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Heartland History

In 1983 Dr. George Harris wrote a letter to L’Arche Daybreak asking for more information about L’Arche.  His letter was forwarded to Sr. Christella Buser in Winnipeg, Canada.  Christella, a native Kansan, returned to her home state in late 1983 after being commissioned by L’Arche International to begin the establishment of L’Arche in the Kansas City area. 

In July of 1984 the first board of directors meeting was held.  Founding board members included; Dr. George Harris, Linda Sinclair, Dr. Rod Turnbull III, Mark Henke, Ed White, and Norma Schlick, CSJ.

In 1984-85 the group began looking for a home to begin L’Arche.  Christella was given an anonymous donation to purchase the home.  Several attempts to purchase a home were blocked by city councils citing disrupted parking and depreciation of home values.
 
 “In 1984, Christella Buser and her Board were ready to buy a house and begin a new community.  They had chosen the neighborhood and explained their project to some of the neighbors.  But when they presented it to the Municipal Council it was rejected:  other neighbors had protested; they did not want people with mental handicaps in their neighborhood.  And they won!  The Board and the neighbors went through the same scenario three more times.  Then Christella organized a whole network of friends who sent letters and telegrams to the Municipal Council; she and Board members made personal visits to senators.  Finally, in 1986, they were able to change the zoning laws and buy a duplex in Overland Park, Kansas.  We are still very far from being a world that welcomes people with handicaps.”  (from An Ark for the Poor, by Jean Vanier)

In 1985 Jean Vanier led a Faith & Light Retreat at Rockhurst College and spoke at Washburn University in Topeka.  April 1, 1987 L’Arche Heartland welcomed their first core members.  The welcoming team was composed of Sr. Christella and Virginia Pearl, CSJ.  In June they were joined by Lisa Wagner and in July by Sr. Lucy Walter.  The first community night was held January 12, 1988, a tradition which continues to this day.

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Federation of L’Arche

L’Arche began August 4, 1964 when Jean Vanier welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in Trosly-Breuil, France.  A Dominican, Father Thomas Philippe, introduced Jean to the world of persons with disabilities.  He was a chaplain of the Val Fleuri, a small institution for men with disabilities in Trosly.  Jean visited his friend and sensed in the men a spiritual openness and their place in the heart of God.  Fr. Thomas suggested that Jean “start something” as there was a great need for homes and work programs.  After finishing the school year and with encouragement from Fr. Thomas, he bought a small home in Trosly and welcomed Raphael and Philippe on the feast day of St. Dominic-August 4th.  Jean discovered the gift of people with disabilities and that he wanted to make his home with them.  More people came, those with disabilities and those without and more homes were opened.

Many people visited and were captivated with the vision of L’Arche. Today the Federation of L’Arche is made up of 149 communities in 37 countries.  Jean says “L’Arche was not my project, it was God’s”.

Shortly after opening the house Jean asked Jacqueline d’Jhalluin to look in the Bible for names for the house…………she suggested about 100.  When Jean heard “L’Arche” (French for the ark) he knew without hesitation that was it.  He then realized the symbolism.  Noah’s ark was built on God’s command, the boat of salvation. It symbolizes diversity, refuge, and hope.  The ark reminds us of the first covenant between God and humanity.  It was and is a beautiful name. 

Learn more about L’Arche International, L’Arche USA, and Jean Vanier.

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Our License

L’Arche Heartland is a 501-c3 non-profit organization, registered in the State of Kansas, governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors.  We hold a state license from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to provide Home and Community Based Residential and Day Service Supports for Adults with Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).  We also hold an affiliation with the Johnson County Developmental Disability Organization (CDDO).  L’Arche Heartland is a member community of the International Federation of L’Arche and responds to authority on many different levels: The City of Overland Park, Johnson County, State of Kansas, and L’Arche USA.

View our KDADS License

View our 501(c)(3) certificate

View our Current 990

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Leadership

Community Leader | Executive Director: Thomas Marquis

Thomas has been a part of L'Arche Heartland since 2005, he has served the community in a variety of roles: as a live-in assistant, Community Coordinator, and since 2015 as our Community Leader / Executive Director.  Graduating summa cum laude from MidAmerica Nazarene University with a bachelor's in Theology, Thomas has given his entire professional life to the community of L'Arche Heartland.

Community Coordinators: Nicole Kaufmann | Mark Lepper

Nicole served as a live-in assistant from 2010-2011 after completing her undergraduate degree.  Through her experience in L’Arche Heartland she followed a call to pursue special needs ministry and obtained her Masters of Divinity from Drew Theological Seminary.  She returned to L’Arche Heartland as a Community Coordinator in 2015. 

Mark came to L’Arche Heartland in 2011 after earning his Masters of Divinity degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary and serving in a church in Minnesota for five years. He shared life as a live-in assistant in three of our homes before becoming Community Coordinator in 2016.    

Day Service Coordinator: Kathy Newham

Kathy became a part of the L’Arche Heartland community in 1996 when she was selected to be Community Leader / Executive Director.  When she arrived the community was comprised of one house and an apartment and shared life with only 6 core members.  Over her nearly 20 years of service as the Community Leader we grew into where we are today.  After stepping out of the role of Community Leader she returned to community life to serve as our first Day Service Coordinator in 2016. 

Administrative Coordinator: John Tarpley

John joined L’Arche in 2005 after having a professional career in the IT world of the health care system.  In total he served as a live-in assistant in 3 different communities for a total of 10 years.  In 2016 he transitioned out of shared life in the home and become L’Arche Heartland’s first full time Administrative Coordinator. 

L'arche Heartland Board of Directors

Brian Dillbeck, President

Vice President of Finance, Lockpath

Sue Melena, Secretary

Special Education, Center School District

Kurt Roberts, Treasurer

Executive Director, Career Coach Program, Kansas State University

Dick Cates

Medical Administration Professional, Retired

Jean-Baptiste Le Pichon, M.D. / Ph.d.

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri in Kansas City Medical School

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurology, University of Kansas Medical Center

Program Director for the Child Neurology Residency, Children's Mercy Hospital

Sarah Diehl-Miller

Salesforce Consultant, DEG

Tom Esselman

Executive Director, Connecting for Good

Brian Gillespie

Sales Operations Director, Enterprise Software

Johanna Telke

Attorney, Immigration Services Officer,

Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Sr. Lucy Walter

Coordinator of Mother House and Ross Hall

Sister of Charity, Leavenworth

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Current Mandate

Over the past five years, Heartland has seen significant growth: two new homes, five new core members in the homes, an expanded Academy, and the addition of a new community coordinator. As we give thanks for the growth in our members and resources, we also are mindful of the challenge to grow in the way we live L'Arche's mission each day.

In the next five years, we hope this mandate will allow us to live our mission more fully by naming the following priorities:  fostering our environment, focusing on mutual relationships, developing formation for all, and increasing integration in our city.

Fostering our Environment

L'Arche Heartland is dedicated to fostering an environment where everyone feels accepted, loved, and safe to express their needs. As we share daily life together, we hope to attend to these needs whenever possible by

  • Cultivating an atmosphere of trust among and towards leadership.
  • Providing opportunities for everyone to share their opinions, needs, and hopes.
  • Being open to new ideas and structures of living in community.
  • Honoring each person and the relationships that are meaningful to them.
  • Remembering our identity as a community that trusts God.
  • Maintaining responsible stewardship of resources to support the community’s mission

Mutual Relationships

We believe that togetherness is the key for understanding mutual relationships. Togetherness takes time, a readiness to celebrate each other’s gifts, and a commitment to caring for one another. To strengthen mutual relationships, we seek to
  • Foster more one-to-one and across-our-homes interactions, with a mind to simple activities, games, and common interests.
  • Learn and practice communication skills to help us heal conflicts and navigate daily life.
  • Balance our use of technology and media to bring us together more meaningfully.

Formation

Formation shapes the growth of one’s character in the context of mutual relationship, nurtured by spirituality, with attention to L’Arche’s roots.  Formation is for every person in L’Arche for the up building of the whole community. To grow in compassion, responsibility, and joy, we affirm that
  • Praying together is a means of grace, necessary for the growth we desire.
  • Each meeting presents an opportunity to practice formation.
  • Regular individual evaluations support our growth
  • Regular community accompaniment helps us to live out the mission of      L’Arche each day.
  • Fostering long-term commitments among assistants builds leadership within the     community.

Integration

As members of Greater Kansas City, we desire to be better neighbors and grow our presence. As we develop our relationships, we want to find ways to share our story and draw others into it. We want to announce that we all have a place in the human community and gifts to offer. As we partner with others who also believe this, we commit to
  • Seeking opportunities to exercise our gifts in the broader community.
  • Developing mutual relationships with other faith groups in the city.
  • Continue developing our community’s capacities by growing our board and diversifying our revenue sources. 
  • Strengthening our bonds within the International Federation of L’Arche, in a spirit of solidarity.
  • Finding ways to announce L’Arche and inviting people to participate in our mission.

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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