Our Way, Inc. has been serving people with developmental disabilities in Lincoln County for 35 years. The organization is excited to be currently building the first facility of its own in Merrill.
“This is the first Our Way, Inc. owned facility,” said Our Way Director Julie Weber. “It’s a really big deal for us.”
The groundbreaking ceremony in September was attended by residents, family members, board of directors and employees, with a celebration following at Riverside Park.
The building under construction on Eugene Street is actually the sixth facility in Our Way’s history, but all the others are owned by Lincoln County and leased to Our Way. The new Adult Family Home (AFH) duplex, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will replace the leased facility on Third Street.
The new duplex is licensed to house 3-4 residents on each side. Three full-time residents will be housed per side, with the fourth bed available for respite services. Respite service offers caregivers an opportunity to take some time for themselves. Respite services are currently available at both Merrill and Tomahawk Our Way locations.
“This is really going to be a good opportunity to grow that,” Weber said.
After looking at other buildings in Merrill to purchase and convert to their needs, Our Way’s board decided that building new would better suit their needs. Three lots on Eugene Street were purchased in June.
“To find what we really needed, we decided to build,” Weber said. “Our need was to stay close to the community. We needed to stay in the city limits, stay on the bus line and close to shopping and events.”
The construction of the building has been kept local, from funding to materials to labor.
“With this new building, absolutely everything has stayed within the county,” Weber said.
Our Way, Inc. has grown to become Lincoln County’s premier provider of residential services and community support for people with developmental disabilities. All of Our Way’s residential programs are licensed by the state.
Originally founded by family members in 1978, Our Way, Inc. evolved into a private non-profit organization in 1980. Our Way began by providing a living arrangement to five people in one group home. Our Way, Inc. has since grown as the needs of Lincoln County have grown. They now provide residential services in four Community Based Residential Facilities (CBRF) and one AFH. Our Way also serves more than 30 persons in a wide variety of community settings, and employs a workforce of more than 50 employees.
Our Way operates Deer View and Pat Weber Memorial Home in Merrill, and Hiawatha House and Our Way Group Home in Tomahawk. The new facility will replace Forward House, an AFH on Third Street in Merrill.
“All of our services are individual care and support services in a home-like environment,” Weber said. “All of our homes look and feel like home.”
The residents of Forward House will be moving to the new building upon completion. The new building offers room for four more people, so Our Way will be able to accept new residents.
The new building will offer distinct advantages over Forward House, which is an older two-story house.
“Adults that live there (Forward House) can’t age in place,” Weber said. “It’s about keeping them in their home as long as possible.”
The residents of Our Way homes range in age from their 20’s to their 80’s, with a variety of needs. All of Our Way’s services are tailored to the individual, and the organization typically has very long-term relationships with them.
“It’s really all about helping them build their life and helping them become members of the community,” Weber said. “That meaningful community connection is really important for us.”
In addition to operating residential facilities, Our Way provides supportive home care services to those who live with family members or on their own. Services range from daily to occasional and include shopping, housekeeping, laundry, meal planning and preparation, personal care services as well as community access and integration.
“It’s all about helping them become independent community members, whether they live in one of our group homes or on their own,” Weber said.
Many of Our Way’s clients hold jobs in the community, whether at the county’s Lincoln Industries or private sector employment through CCCW.
“Quite a few have meaningful jobs right now,” Weber said.
Our Way, Inc. has a long relationship with Lincoln County and for years contracted with the county’s Developmental Disabilities Board to provide services. With the coming of Family Care in recent years, the Developmental Disabilities Board was dissolved at the county level. Our Way still has a relationship with the county through its leases of county-owned buildings, but now also works with new support agencies, Aging and Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC) and Community Care of Central Wisconsin (CCCW).
For more information on Our Way, Inc. and the services it provides, visit www.ourwayinc.org or call 715-453-7555.