KRYSTLE WAGNER • JUL 5, 2017 AT 10:00 AM

As Americans celebrated the country’s independence, Tuesday’s holiday held a special significance for a group of new Grand Haven residents and their families.

The newest residents of Gracious Grounds are celebrating their own independence and starting a new chapter in their lives by moving into their own apartments, a first for many of them.

With construction complete, 10 residents and one resident assistant are in the process of moving into the new eight-unit apartment building at 1028 Ohio Ave. on the city’s south side. Gracious Grounds, a nonprofit organization aimed at creating a safe and friendly place for people with unique abilities to live and be involved with the community, holds the master lease for the building.

Katie Cole has been busy unpacking her puzzles, CDs, books and knitting supplies, and setting up pictures of her family and friends in her new one-bedroom apartment, which features a washer and dryer. Cole, 31, said she’s excited to show off her apartment to her family when they throw her a housewarming party in the coming weeks.

“I feel excited that I get to be on my own,” she said.

 With her friends in the surrounding apartments, Cole said they get to become a family, and she expects they will be in and out of each other’s homes when they aren’t working.

Trevor Maurer-Leshuk, 22, has looked forward to this moment for three years when he first heard about Gracious Grounds. He says he’s looking forward to moving in, sleeping in his own place and learning bike routes to get to his jobs at Culver’s, Spring Lake Country Club and Orchard Market in Spring Lake.

Ashton Maurer-Wagner, 17, said it’s scary yet exciting having his older brother move out and on his own. Ashton said he plans to visit and sleep on the pull-out couch.

Being out of her parents’ home and on her own is something Alex Thelen, 27, said she’s looked forward to since high school graduation. She is in the process of moving into her first apartment with roommate Ashley Mokma.

Thelen said she’s excited about the change.

“I can be independent and make my own appointments,” she said.

With friends living across the hall and in the next building, Alex said she likes their close proximity and she plans to cook for everyone.

Having Alex live on her own is a dream her mom, Gwen Thelen, has had since Alex was born.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gwen Thelen said.

Kathy Holkeboer, Mokma’s mom, shared the same sentiment about watching her own daughter embark on living in her own apartment. Holkeboer said her daughter had challenges along the way and moving into the apartment on Ashley’s 23rd birthday was huge.

“I didn’t ever think this was going to happen for her,” Holkeboer said.

Holkeboer, a social worker, is moving in an apartment in the same building as her daughter. In addition to working full time, Holkeboer will serve as the resident assistant to provide guidance to the residents, most of whom she’s known for many years. She has coached Special Olympics for 12 years.

Holkeboer said she feels blessed to begin this new chapter and guide residents as they continue to grow.

Gracious Grounds Executive Director Sandy Baker said they feel equally as blessed to have Holkeboer living there.

Residents moving in during the Fourth of July weekend coincided with the anniversary of when residents at the 1515 S. Despelder St. building moved into their apartments.

As residents settle into their new apartments, Baker said she’s filled with an overwhelming feeling of excitement, joy and “good nerves.”

Ultimately, Baker would like to see Gracious Grounds serve as a model that can be replicated in other communities.