The first tenants with developmental disabilities moved into an Epling Estates property in 1999. The property was
neither intentionally designed for nor marketed toward individuals with special needs. It was, however, a well maintained,
newer market rental that served the clients well for many years. This was the first exposure Epling had
to providing housing needs for this population.
Fast forward to 2005, when some changes were stirring in Columbus, Ohio, at the
Department of Developmental Disabilities (ODODD). Up to this point, many agencies
offering homemaker-personal-care (HPC) services also filled the roll of a landlord, as they
owned homes which they leased to the individuals they served. However, the ODODD
noted potential conflict with this well-intentioned arrangement. For example, a client who
desired to change service providers would be required to move to a new home, since the
provider acted as the landlord as well. Conversely, a client who wanted to move to a
different location would often have to switch HPC providers. This had the effect of
upsetting the proverbial apple cart for an emotionally sensitive and often physically
challenged population, since making one major, often difficult, change essentially required another major, often
difficult, change at the same time… ugh! This situation directly conflicted with the mission to ensure individuals
with developmental disabilities have the freedom of choice in both housing and care providers.
In 2006, Blick Center, a non-profit organization established in 1969 for the sole purpose
of enhancing lives of individuals with disabilities (who, by the way, does an excellent job at
what they do), was acting as both an HPC provider and landlord. Blick desired to transition
out of their role as landlord and avoid any potential conflicts of client freedom of choice.
Dots were connected between Epling and Blick that led to Epling Estates purchasing a home
that Blick owned. Coincidently this was the first home that both Blick Center and
Epling Estates purchased for the sole intent of serving clients with developmental
Many who work, live, or love alongside folks with developmental disabilities can testify to the
way they can make your heart smile. Jon Epling made a special connection with his DD tenants
and found great satisfaction in serving as their independent landlord. Epling Estates recognized
the great need for quality, affordable housing for individuals in the DD community. Armed with
newfound education and passion, Epling Estates developed 13 new homes between 2006 and
2009. The train was rolling, but then something unexpected happened in 2010.
Jonathan & Kathryn Epling welcomed their third child, Joseph
Epling, on March 31, 2010. Aside from a little bit of a rough start
as Joey (all four pounds, two ounces of him) spent his first
weeks in Akron Children’s Hospital being treated for jaundice,
the Epling family was firing on all cylinders. However, a not-so-routine
three-month well-child visit changed the Epling family
road map, when Joseph was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Jon & Katy had to take a minute (BIG understatement) to adjust
to this news, but Joey did not! The Eplings are devout Christians
and trust unwaveringly that God is good and has a perfect plan.
After the shock wore off, Jon & Katy could see the path laid out
before them in advance, and a new enthusiasm and perspective
was forever alive in them. Each supported living home is seen
through parents’ loving eyes who know that one day their son
may live there. Until then, someone else’s son or daughter gets to
call this home.
Below is some noteworthy information about Epling Estates’ supported living homes.
Epling Estates shows appreciation many times per year for its special tenants.
- Spring → As a way to foster creativity, a sense of pride in their home, and a good old-fashioned work project, tenants are encouraged to plant flowers each spring. Individuals can pick out their favorites, plant them in the existing beds, and get reimbursed for the cost. Epling has run this program continuously since 2002.
- Summer → Let’s get out and celebrate! Epling Estates has hosted a number of events designed exclusively for its DD tenants. Activities include renting a loge at the Akron RubberDucks stadium to enjoy a game and fireworks or hosting a summer picnic at Portage Lakes including pontoon boat rides!
- Fall → Clients enjoy painting, decorating, and carving pumpkins delivered right to their front door. If they are lucky enough to be home during the delivery, tenants are welcomed to walk out to the truck and select their own gourd. Epling has been putting smiles on faces annually since 2004.
- Winter → Epling Estates has been delivering wheels of baby Swiss cheese since 1999 as a tangible way to show appreciation and send wishes of joy and happiness during the Christmas season. In good times and bad, Epling has made it a priority to say thank you each and every year!