J-HAP Welcoming Community, Planning Beyond Startup

Eleven years ago, Linda Bialick started with a dream of an independent living facility for adults with disabilities. After helping to make that happen when Jewish Housing and Programming opened the Cornerstone Creek apartment complex last year, Executive Director Alyssa Golob, a small staff and a group of dedicated volunteers are helping taking things beyond the startup stage.

“We make sure they don’t just have a beautiful apartment to come home to, but that they have a beautiful life experience,” Golob said. “I keep saying it’s called J-HAP: The H is done and now we’re focusing on the J and P.”

J-HAP doesn’t own the building, but it does handle programming, amenities, and the security desk for the 45 residents. Part of the way that that programming will be supported is with their first “Backyard Bash” in the Cornerstone Creek Courtyard on July 29, featuring local musician Mick Sterling, as well as beverages and snacks for sale. Their first benefit concert, “Raise The Roof” is at the Dakota in October.

“It’s our way of saying hi and being good neighbors,” Golob said. “Yes, the building has been filled, but now we need to support the next phase.”

Golob said they’ll be starting life-skills classes for the tenants, and opening up a learning series for tenants, but also a separate one for the community.

“We love our 45 tenants, but really believe we have something beautiful to show for the community,” Golob said. “There will be some tenant focused activities, but most will be open to the entire community.”

The tenants in the building have already become a community amongst themselves. Golob said they’ve already put together a meet-and-greet barbecue on the patio, and five of the women who live at Cornerstone Creek got dressed up and went together to a prom that De La Salle High School puts on for people with disabilities.

“They are living with people they can identify with and it feels comfortable for them,” Golob said. “It’s really cool and it’s about to take off.”

There are currently 85 people on the waitlist for the building, more than enough to fill an addition that there is land to build on, should they want to take on a whole capital campaign.

The next big thing for J-HAP is the opening of their new kitchen, (which we spoke with Nicole Rabinowitz about in a recent Who The Folk?! Podcast). The kitchen will offer meals for purchase four nights a week, but will also allow entrepeneurs who are starting their own food businesses to rent space in the kitchen and, if they’re the right fit, hire tenants in the building to work for them.

The first to rent space is North Mallow, whose owner Mike Nelson will be looking at applicants and conduct interviews of residents who are looking for jobs, Rabinowitz said.

“The shared kitchen is a big thing, but we’re offering that with a twist,” Golob said. “They can hire and teach [residents]. Hiring someone with disabilities, producing Kosher food products, that is really going to change us.”

Golob, who previously worked at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center, first became connected with Bialick when they were on the Twin Cities Inclusion Transportation Committee.

“I was very enamored with her then, and J-HAP was just on paper,” Golob said. “Then to have this opportunity to work here? When you walk in here you feel like you’ve gotten a hug.”

Two residents who started dating after meeting each other in the building recently got engaged.

“We have a scoresheet in the office of every time someone cries each a day from the stories,” she said. “I definitely leave here feeling I actually did something every day. It’s a different level of client. It’s amazing.”