Making dinner together is part of the nightly routine for residents at 1515 S. Despelder St. in Grand Haven. Since moving into the home last July, the residents have been settling in, developing friendships and getting to know the community.

Gracious Grounds is a non-profit organization that aims to create a friendly and safe place for people with unique abilities to live and be involved in the community. Executive Director Sandy Baker said parents look for a place for their loved ones that will be safe and secure, on the public transit route, and close to businesses.

Baker’s son, Eric, is one of the five men who live at Gracious Grounds. Although current residents’ ages range from 24 to 32, the organization serves people of all ages.

Residents have individual leases. They pay $950 a month, which includes cable, WiFi and the oversight of two resident assistants.

From July 2016 to this past January, Sandy Baker lived at Gracious Grounds to understand the house and its residents so she could accurately explain daily flow and how things run to the next resident assistants.

Now, Jody, and her husband, Wayne, live at the home. Jody said their role is to help the men with their life choices and look for ways to encourage them and help them be social.

“It’s neat coming alongside them,” she said.

After discussing getting involved in an adult foster care ministry, the couple’s path crossed with Baker.

While Jody and Wayne work full-time at Love in Action and Shape Corp., respectively, Baker and other volunteers are at Gracious Grounds.

When Wayne returns from work at about 2:30 p.m., he usually spends time playing air hockey, talking and prepping dinner with the residents who are around.

Residents have their own schedule posted outside their doors detailing when and where they will be each day.

Zach Barker works 18-20 hours a week as a culinary aide at the nearby Grand Pines Assisted Living facility. He also volunteers at Baymont Inn & Suites, and they in exchange offer Gracious Grounds residents time to spend in their pool or hot tub.

Barker, who moved to Grand Haven from Rockford, said he enjoys being close to work and being able to walk.

Rick Barker, Zach’s dad, said they feel lucky for Zach to live at Gracious Grounds. He previously lived in a home with nonverbal roommates. Since he’s active, follows sports and likes movies, Zach’s family was looking for a place that better suited him.

Rick said that, as a parent of a child who is handicapped, there’s a fear of what the future holds for his son. Rick said they don’t have family around and they felt it is important for Zach to have friends he would have for a lifetime.

“Sandy’s made that come true in many different ways,” Rick said.

Kathie Blik, Zach’s mom, said Gracious Grounds wouldn’t be possible without Baker and her vision, and she’s thankful for it.

Rick said he appreciates the community for being welcoming and receptive, and he’s watched his son mature and continue growing.

Since moving into Gracious Grounds, one of the residents taught Zach how to use Harbor Transit, which he now takes around town.

Rick said it’s “beautiful” watching his son grow close to the other men at Gracious Grounds.

Although residents are responsible for making their own breakfasts and lunches, they come together every night for dinner. They also have a say in creating the dinner menu.

Bedrooms and the kitchen are on the main floor. The basement includes laundry, movie theater, a half-bathroom and recreation area for games. There’s storage for residents, and one part is being constructed into an apartment for the resident assistants.

Every Friday night is movie night, which Jody said had helped build a community atmosphere within the house.

One weekend each month, Jody and Wayne spend time away from the house. Parents fill in for them.

Blik recently stayed overnight, which she said gave her a chance to see the residents’ interactions firsthand. She said there’s a positive and warm feeling there.

Blik said it’s a good feeling knowing her son is among friends.

“It couldn’t be better,” she said of Gracious Grounds.

In the future, Baker said she hopes Gracious Grounds will be a model throughout the country.

This month, Baker will receive the keys to lease an eight-unit apartment building near Gracious Grounds. It will house seven residents and one resident assistant. Baker said they’ve already filled the apartments.

Gracious Grounds’ recent fundraiser brought in more than $60,000 to continue their efforts. Through donations, Gracious Grounds bought the current property and a 15-passenger van. Furniture throughout the house was donated.

Baker said the community “has wrapped their arms” around them, and she said she is humbled and grateful for that support.

“It’s grace in action,” Baker said.