WAXAHACHIE — In a transition from adolescence to adulthood, one father has developed a one-of-a-kind community for his son’s independent future.

“It all started because of Michael Poston,” began his father, John Poston, President of Daymark Living. “Life right now, living at home, is too isolated and it’s not active enough.”

“Daymark Living is going to create an environment where they can live longer, healthier, happier lives, and that’s really the bottom line — to get the same opportunity to live and have a lifestyle as we all do. I jokingly say, ‘I’m building a resort for Michael and his friends,’” he chuckled.

Providing specialized housing for residents with Intellectual and Developmental Delays (IDD), Daymark Living broke ground May 24 on Cantrell Street, to improve the quality of life for many Ellis County citizens.

“There are 700,000 people in Texas with IDD, and only a handful of places exist where they can live a quality life – and those are full,” Poston explained. “Our vision for Daymark Living is to provide adults with IDD a safe community where they can engage in an active, healthy lifestyle among their friends and neighbors.”

Poston recognized the need for a supervised neighborhood in early 2012 when Michael was on the brink of graduating high school.

“There wasn’t anywhere in Texas, especially nearby, that he could live a happy, fulfilling life among his friends. So I just put together a team with my real estate and nonprofit background from the Rise School to create Daymark Living, so it’s been years in the making,” Poston recalled.

Established in 1998 at the University of Alabama, Poston co-founded the nationally acclaimed Rise School of North Dallas at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which later joined the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas in August 2016.

“When Michael was a baby, we were trying to figure out the best way to improve his life, and we came up with early education, so we started the Rise School, which is a preschool for kids with Down syndrome and Autism,” Poston noted. “So fast forward through school and into high school, which he did great in, I started thinking, ‘It’s not right for him to live with his mom and dad for life.’ And we wanted to try and create the same opportunities his brother and sister have."

With a solid foundation set by the Rise School, Michael excelled as Poston naturally assumed the next step of his son’s growth – to create a community for him and his peers to become more independent.

“It has a boulevard with 28 cottages with yards," Poston described of the community. "Then we’ve got plenty of room for outside amenities, like an event lawn, sports courts, resort style swimming pool, and everything you can think of."

Alongside dedicated developers, educators, community leaders and parents, Daymark Living partnered with Greystone Management Services, Montgomery Street Partners, Aspen Heights student housing developers, and Marbridge residential care to ensure a positive environment.

“I got the developer to create the cottage-style neighborhood, which is Aspen Heights. Then the next piece of the puzzle was a management company, and that’s Greystone Communities. They operate 50 or so Class-A senior living centers across the country,” Poston articulated. “The CEO and President of Greystone Communities both have 18-year-olds with Down syndrome, so that was a neat part of the story because they understood what I was trying to do and the need for it.”

"And then Marbridge was the other part of the team, and they are a community down in Austin with 250 people with IDD, and they’re very familiar with this population and running the community,” he added.

“And the last final piece of the puzzle was the money, and that’s Montgomery Street Partners, my financial partner out of Dallas. We’ve all been working together for over two years to formulate and put together the best team, program, and community that we can,” he admitted.

According to a Daymark Living press release, the campus will be the first of its kind in North Texas, complete with an assortment of “resort-like” features.

The release also notes the 28 cottages sit on 20 acres with an additional 20 acres used for outdoor activities. Residents will have access to a movie theater, clubhouse and spacious resort-style pool, a fitness room, volleyball courts, computer labs, classrooms and private study lounges for their continuing education needs.

State-of-the-art technology will be implemented to promote independence and safety, and with a licensed nurse practitioner and EMTs on site, residents will have quick access to medical attention as well.

“Our vision for Daymark Living is to provide adults with IDD a safe community where they can engage in an active, healthy lifestyle among their friends and neighbors,” Poston affirmed. “My son, Michael, is happiest when he feels independent. At Daymark Living, independence is our goal. Happiness is our mission.”

Hosting a variety of residents with Asperger’s, Autism, Spina Bifida, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, and Turner syndrome, Daymark Living will accommodate 202 tenants at full capacity.

“Families have been super excited. There’s such a need in the state of Texas because there are 700,000 people with IDD and there are less than 400 quality beds,” Poston mentioned. “There are only two communities of any size, and they’re both full. There’s nowhere for someone like Michael to live a quality life among his peer group.”

“Ninety percent live at home or with a family member, and my other kids don’t live at home, and I think that you don’t grow when you live at home for your entire life.” He added. “We’ve got over 2,000 people who have signed up on our website to get more information, and then we have about 40 reservations out of that.”

From on-campus programming to continue higher education, to further social skills through a variety of provided outlets, the college-like setup is an excellent edition to the Gingerbread City.

“The City of Waxahachie was the first thing I found. I got to know people in the city and they were all welcoming and embraced the concept which is important,” Poston reminisced his weekly trips from Dallas to Austin, often stopping in Waxahachie.

“I’d always go through Waxahachie and talk to people and fell in love with the city and the culture. It’s such a perfect fit because you’ve got every amenity in town that our residents could want,” he acknowledged. “Plus, you’ve got a culture that embraces this concept and population, and they’ve been tremendous in welcoming us, and that’s one of the biggest selling points to the families.”

Paul Stevens, City Manager for the City of Waxahachie, stated, “Waxahachie is excited not only to have another quality development within our city but also to have one that serves and enhances the lives of residents with IDD, making this project even more remarkable."

“These individuals add to the diversity of our community and play a positive role in it, and it is important to have housing options that cater to their specific needs,” he added.

Daymark Living empowers individual independence and growth within a community environment, expectant to open in 2018.

“It’s a neighborhood with a huge need, and no supplier out there, so I’m just creating an environment where they can all have the opportunity to live. It gives the residents a chance to be independent with supervision,” Poston reaffirmed.

“The residents’ happiness comes through by being as independent as possible and continuing to learn and live a life that’s stimulating in all aspects - mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s to help them grow and learn among their friends and peer group, and what better place to do that then in Waxahachie,” he finished with a grin.

To connect with Daymark Living, visit daymarkliving.com or call 972-646-2162.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450