A mother’s dream for her son has resulted in a game-changing opportunity for the disability community in the Tampa Bay area.
I was recently introduced to Tonya Whitlock who described her vision for an inclusive community known as The Hive. At one point during our conversation, it came out that the concept for the Hive stemmed from the fact that Whitlock has a 28-year-old son with a disability. She has yet to find anything that meets his care or socialization needs as a young adult. Rather than continue to look for something that is not out there yet, Whitlock has decided to fill this gap in the community herself.
According to Whitlock, the Hive’s goal is to “change the culture of true inclusion by being the model of true inclusion,” particularly for people with disabilities transitioning into adulthood. If Whitlock’s vision is realized, she believes it will be the first fully inclusive community for people with disabilities in the United States. It will have opportunities for learning and socialization.
The most intriguing part of the concept is the housing component. Currently, The Hive is in the process of exploring new construction while at the same time looking at existing housing that might meet their needs. Whitlock sees the housing component as vital to the overall concept. She indicated that one-third of the apartments would be set aside for people with disabilities. Another third will be for veterans, and finally, apartments will be set aside for people transitioning out of the foster care system.
Whitlock is not waiting for the housing component to start before she makes a difference in terms of the socialization vision of the project. Through the help of Bayshore Baptist Church classes and social events started the last weekend in June. There is a new class offered every Saturday, which range from gardening to the art to mixology and everything in between. The social activities include movie nights, trivia, and karaoke, just to name a few. The event calendar for July can be found at theinclusivehive.org. Visitors to the website can sign up for a $10 monthly membership which includes access to all classes and social events.
Even though The Hive is in its infancy, it has the potential to make a significant impact on people with disabilities. On a personal level I am very excited about the opportunity that The Hive may provide. I am 35 years old, and I am still looking for a balance between meeting my physical needs as well as having my social and intellectual needs met. It is refreshing to meet people like Whitlock and realize there are still people out there who believe that life is not defined by one’s ability or disability, but instead, is defined by the memories we make and the impact we leave behind.
If you want to get involved and join The Hive movement, Whitlock hosts biweekly Zoom meetings for the general public. To get on the mailing list, please contact Tonya Whitlock at email@example.com.