It comes as no surprise that this week’s Ponte Vedran of the Week came to mind for Phil Squatrito when asked to nominate someone who gives endlessly, loves unconditionally and serves in the community whole heartedly. Meet Amy Groshell. Amy is known for her efforts in serving the autistic community through her non-profit organization Peace of Heart Community. Peace of Heart is located in Palm Valley and is committed to changing the face of autism in the community. Amy loves calling Ponte Vedra Beach home, loves the beach lifestyle and the small town feel.
Name: Amy Groshell
Occupation: Co-founder, Peace of Heart Community (a non profit serving young adults with non-verbal autism in the Jacksonville area)
Where I grew up: Marion, IN
A Ponte Vedran since: 17 years
Other Places I have lived: Carmel, IN
My favorite thing about Ponte Vedra: The laid back, beach lifestyle. It has a small town feel and, being from Indiana, I love that.
My least favorite thing about Ponte Vedra: Hmm, maybe the stereotype that comes with living in an affluent area. I have found people kind hearted and giving. I wish there were more healthier places to meet up with friends in our stretch of the beach!
In my spare time I like to: Do yoga, bike on the beach, and spending time with my kids and husband outdoors.
Ponte Vedran you most admire: Sherry Chait. She managed the first property we lived in when we moved. She is a living saint. She is always looking for a need to fill in someone’s life.
My favorite time in Ponte Vedra: The HEAL! (Healing Every Autistic Life) Gala when the community comes together to rally around autism or the Jacksonville Beach (Sunrise) Surf Camp for autism…it’s magical.
Dream Vacation other than Ponte Vedra: My best friend and I had to cancel a birthday trip to Croatia due to travel restrictions. I’d love to travel the coastline there along the Adriatic Sea, seeing Dubrovnik and their national parks, especially Plitvice Lakes.
If I could invite anyone over to dinner – 2 Ponte Vedrans and one famous person – who would you invite: Bobby and Leslie Weed (our daughters with autism are “soul” sisters). I’m on the shy side so dining with a famous person would be daunting for me. If Mother Teresa were alive I’d love to visit with her!
Last time you went to the beach: 2 days ago on my bike
Charity or organization you are most passionate about and why: Peace of Heart Community, my husband and I founded it in 2016. It’s a 24-7 group home for young adults with autism where our 24 year old daughter lives. There is nothing like it in the city, state or country. We are focused on body, mind, and spirit. We provide a specialized form of typing so they can communicate more than their wants and needs. We also sit on 3.5 acres and have an organic raised bed garden tended by young adults with profound autism. We engage the community by selling shares of our garden. It’s really fun, every Saturday we have our own on-site Farmer’s Market where the raised bed partners pick up their produce. It’s like hosting a small event each week. We love it! These individuals are the ones who truly “enrich” our lives.
Tell us about your work with autistic children and families: I’ve lived with autism for 23 years. It turned my life upside down. It’s been a progression toward healing for me and my daughter. I went from trying to desperately “fix” her to embracing her – everything about her. We discovered she is a talented abstract artist (she won the Emerging Artist award at PV’s Cultural Center’s awards ceremony last year, Feb. of 2020). Her needs were more intensive than we could care for in our own home. She was placed in a group home at age 14. From that point forward, we searched for a more holistic care model for her but no organization was equipped to handle her communication and behavioral needs. We purchased 3.5 acres in Palm Valley in 2015, became a non-profit in 2016, began building the group home in 2017 and haven’t turned back. We have 7 individuals with autism living in the home with house parents. We also have a thriving nature based enrichment program where young adults with autism and a caregiver can come work in our garden, learn music, and workout. We currently offer boxing (great for hand eye coordination) and are developing a training program so they can compete in Obstacle Course Races (OCRs). We are teaming up with a new OCR a couple in our community are starting called Hildervat. It’s one thing to talk about inclusion and another thing to make it happen. We love partnering with Hildervat and places like BrewHound to give the individuals we serve more fulfilling lives.
How could others in the community walk alongside and help: That’s easy! Buy a raised bed to sponsor our garden, contribute to the building of our Enrichment Pavilion or volunteer in our garden, T-S from 9 am – noon.
Something most people don’t know about you: I grew up on a 100 acre farm in Indiana in the middle of a cornfield. My Dad was in the car business but insisted we grow up in nature. I loved it. It’s one of the big reasons we chose the style of home we did for our group home. It’s a 2 story white home with a big front porch, just like the farmhouses dotting the country in Indiana.
Anything else you would like us to know: Life is a gift. No matter what comes your way, my life is a testimony that there can always be beauty from pain. That isn’t limited to me…it’s for anyone who believes it. Have faith.