In the late 1960s, not long after John R. Mumaw had completed nearly two decades as EMU’s fourth president (1948-1965), he began to devote more attention to his concern for people with intellectual disabilities. This had been close to his heart since his great-nephew, Chester, was born with Down syndrome.
Then moderator of the Virginia Mennonite Conference, Mumaw convened a committee to explore alternatives to institutionalization at places like the Lynchburg State Colony, standard practice at that time for families who were unable to support a member with an intellectual disability. This work culminated in 1971, when six adults with intellectual disabilities moved to Pleasant View, a house the conference purchased between Broadway and Timberville, where they received care and support from the Miller family living with them.
Mumaw has been regarded ever since as Pleasant View’s “founding father,” according to its executive director, Nancy Hopkins-Garriss. (Providing non-institutional, home-like care to people in the community was also an emphasis of Mumaw’s some years later when he led a strategic planning process for the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. Long-time EMU administrator Beryl Brubaker joined the board right after she arrived to teach nursing at EMC in the summer of 1970. She served on the board until 1992 in various roles as secretary, vice president and chair of the Strategic Development Committee.)
Today, Pleasant View offers numerous programs at 11 locations, including nine group homes, a nursing facility for residents with certain medical needs, in-home care, day support services and employment programs to help the people it serves find jobs or volunteer opportunities. It serves more than 100 people in its residential programs and about 125 in various day support programs, and employs around 200 people, including Dave Gullman, a 1991 seminary student, its pastor, and Heather Newland Corbin ’98, director of social services.
The organization also serves as a resource for family members of an adult with an intellectual disability, helping them to navigate the complicated social services and disability systems, said Hopkins-Garriss.
More than half of the current members of Pleasant View’s board of directors are EMU alumni or staff, including Dave Yutzy ’82, Donnie Dillon ’11, Ann Yoder, class of ’61, Maynard Weaver, class of ’75, Elroy Miller, director of EMU’s department of applied social sciences, and EMU associate professor of organizational studies David Brubaker.
Hopkins-Garris said that creating meaningful roles close to home for adults with intellectual disabilities enriches the entire community in both practical ways – those in Pleasant View’s programs serve countless volunteer hours with local organizations, for example – and philosophical ones.
“One of the big gifts our people give us is [helping us] recognize our own weaknesses and strengths, and that’s lost for the whole community when people [with disabilities] are sent away from home,” she said.
— Andrew Jenner ’04