Koinonia Homes Inc. (Koinonia), a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, provides Residential, Adult Day Support, Vocational and Career Services in Cuyahoga County to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and is the largest private provider of services throughout Cuyahoga County serving 446 participants and employing a staff of over 500.
Koinonia provides long-term care services to individuals living in 21 group homes located throughout the County; 50 supported living sites; and 3 foster care homes. Koinonia also has a Center for Adult Day Support and for Vocational and Career Services that supports over 190 people.
In 2011 Koinonia introduced a small agricultural farm as a vocational training option for people with IDD. The success of this program and the decision to expand its scale, opportunities, and focus led Koinonia’s President and CEO, Diane Beastrom to Gus Frangos, President and General Counsel for the Cuyahoga Land Bank. Both leaders believed that they could create synergies by connecting the missions of their two nonprofits to the benefit of individuals with IDD and the community at large. Enthusiastic about the possibilities, Gus and his staff worked diligently to identify vacant land that would be suitable for the farm’s purposes. Meanwhile, Koinonia’s staff visited and evaluated hundreds of properties to find the right one for this investment. This time and process was not in vain, however, as through Gus’ contacts Koinonia was introduced to numerous resources and people – Community Development Corporations, community leaders, other urban farmers, Farm Markets, and Growing Power. All contributed to the evolution and development of the final urban farm plan.
Still not finding the ideal location within the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s portfolio, Gus was determined to expand the search and help Koinonia locate land for the project. “When I learned about Koinonia’s vision, I was determined to help this social service agency find a way to make it happen,” he said. The Land Bank ultimately located a property in Old Brooklyn that they thought might just be the right fit. Gus introduced Diane to Councilman Kevin J. Kelley Ward 13, who immediately embraced the project and supported the project throughout the process of securing a lease for the 2.3 acre land. What was once the site of the old Memphis School Building, long ago razed, would become the site of Rising Harvest Farms – Old Brooklyn Site. “We are elated to have partners that have made it possible for us to fulfill this vision,” said Diane Beastrom, President and CEO of Koinonia.
What began as a small scale agricultural job training program has now expanded to Rising Harvest Farms, LLC with locations in Strongsville and now Old Brooklyn. To ensure its ongoing ability to provide job training for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the future, Rising Harvest Farms is committed to creating a sustainable urban farming system serving the local community by creating new employment, educational opportunities, and improving the local availability of healthy food.
The demonstrated commitment and energetic efforts of Gus Frangos played a critical role in making Rising Harvest Farms – Old Brooklyn Site a reality. Not only was Gus Frangos able to see and understand Koinonia’s vision, he became a key player in making it happen. “We are elated to have partners that have made it possible for us to fulfill this vision,” said Diane Beastrom, President and CEO of Koinonia.
It was with great pleasure that Koinonia honored Gus Frangos with its most prestigious award, the Koinonia Recognition Award, at the agency’s signature CONNECTeon Luncheon event held last May 3, 2012 at the Marriott at Key Center. Over 325 people paid tribute to Gus Frangos for his selfless work in helping Koinonia. Koinonia will always be grateful to Gus Frangos, who joined Koinonia in its mission of “Partnering with people who have developmental disabilities to achieve healthy, fulfilling, enriched lives.”