The Past, Present and Future of Noah’s Ark

A vision from one father turned into a reality for many Lakeland families who have mentally disabled children.

LAKELAND, Fla. – Imagine being the parent of a mentally disabled child. Now imagine growing old and knowing that one day you must part ways with them. Where does the future of your child lie when all they know is you?

Here are some alarming facts about individuals with developmental disabilities:

Where It All Began

Noah’s Ark of Central Florida first began as a once a month meeting at Lakeland United Methodist Church. Originally named Vision 2000, Noah’s ark was founded and established from the heart of a father of a mentally disabled child, Jack Kosik. He started the organization after thinking about where their own child would be after Kosik and his wife passed away. Through the support of volunteers and people in the community, Noah’s Ark continued to grow to what it is today.

They orginally built off of $46,000 of raised money. Volunteers from the church helped build the homes. People in the church who were unable to partake in hard labor donated parts for the homes: shingles, refrigerators, air conditioners, floors, etc.

“People with a heart came out and built the houses,” said Joan Warnock, mother of Billy Warnock who is a resident of Noah’s Ark.

Billy is about 50 years old, moderately developmentally disabled, and attends an adult day training on weekdays. The Warnock’s moved to Lakeland in 1997. It was when Joan attended a local Special Olympics that she heard about Kosik’s vision for Noah’s Ark. As time progressed, so did the development of Noah’s Ark and the involvement Billy had with it.

Joan, Hank and Bill Warnock in their Lakeland Home.

“My Billy helped nail some things up in that house,” said Joan. “We put our hearts and souls into those houses.”

Where It Is Now

“Billy just loves Jack,” said Joann. “All the kids do, really.”

Noah’s Ark provides housing through Noah’s Nest. In Florida alone there are over 20,000 developmentally disabled people waiting for support services (Noah’s Ark Handout). Noah’s Nest provides not only a home for those lacking support but also an opportunity to experience independence despite their disabilities.

Noah’s Ark has a number of activities available to the residents who live there. From bowling nights to arts and crafts, Noah’s Ark encourages residents to partake with eachother and the community.

These activities help the residents engage with the world, transition into adulthood, and cope with separation from their parents.

“We explained to Billy that eventually we would pass away,” said Hank Warnock, Billy’s Father.” Billy responded “then I’m passing away with you.”

The Future of Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Landing is where the future of Noah’s Ark rests. The Landing will provide group housing for individuals, such as Billy, who requires more extensive attention than those residents of Noah’s Nest.

Noah’s landing will have apartments for those who want to live by themself. Homes can be purchased as well for both residents and family members who wish to be in closer proximity to their children.

Photo Credit: Noah's Ark of Central Florida

As the Noah’s Landing diagram shows, “the vision of Noah’s Landing is a safe, secure, and sustainable community for independent living and support for the developmentally challenged. Within the frame work of the community partnership and families, these citizens will be enriched to lead full, satisfying lives with dignity and purpose. Noah’s Landing will provide opportunities for residential, social, vocational, and recreational choices.”

However, there are many factors to overcome in order for Noah’s Landing to be the full success they dream of it being. With the ways of today’s economy, finances is the number one issue causing Noah’s Landing from progressing to what it could be.

There needs to be more support from the community, city, and the state. What the government does not see clearly now, said Joan, is that group homes -such as Noah’s Landing-would save the state a large sum of money. Billy, for example, has one caregiver. A caregiver is employed simply to assist with the everyday living-necessities of these men and women such as laundry, cleaning, cooking etc. Group homes would allow one caregiver to be over six residents, which in return saves having to pay an unnecessary amount of caregivers.

“I hope and pray everyday that Noah’s landing becomes a reality,” said Joann.

To find out how you can help make Noah’s Landing a reality, or how to get involved with Noah’s Ark as a whole click here: how to help.

“Hopefully some good hearted person will come and say this is a program that should be,” concluded Hank.

How are you able to help Noah’s Ark?