Celebratory smiles stretched across a Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce ribbon on Friday to commemorate the grand opening of Daymark Living.

Daymark Living is an inclusive community dedicated to meeting a broad spectrum of needs for individuals with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities.

Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength opened the ceremony at the main building with a crowd of parents, community members and those who played a roll Daymark's establishment.

Strength recalled the preliminaries of the process and referenced the development as a “great asset to our city.” He then commended the founder of the facility, John Poston, for his efforts.

“John, he is doing this out of his heart, and it is all a really beautiful thing,” Strength added.

Jim Phillips was one patron among the crowd and recalled when Poston brought the concept of Daymark to him and David Hill four years ago. “Our first reaction was, ‘Why Waxahachie?’ And, our second action after listening to his great presentation was, 'Why not?’”

“I think it’s the coolest concept to bring to the special needs community," Phillips added. "What really warms my heart quite frankly, is how well the community has embraced it."

The small neighborhood is designed to incorporate two, three, and four bedroom homes with shared spaces to connect residents and establish relationships to become independent in a supportive, safe and supervised environment. Daymark encourages residents to continue in higher education, further social skills through a variety of outlets in the college-like setup.

Riley Niessen was on-site providing several visitors hugs and high-fives. He is originally from Dallas and was one of the first residents to live at Daymark. “Making friends,” is what he enjoys most about the campus.

He volunteers at Poston Gardens next door regularly and enjoys the outdoor space available to tenants. He has been able to sharpen his cooking skills in the mock kitchen but claims he needs more practice. When asked who his best friend is, he said, “everybody.”

The gated community is staffed with 28 compassionate professionals that help provide the resources to support the residents integrate into the community and strengthen their independence. The community staff of educators and developers offer occasional assistance to the residents and are available on an as-needed basis (but not full-time individual care) for limited individual treatment or personal care assistance.

State-of-the-art technology will be applied to promote independence and safety, and with a licensed nurse practitioner and EMTs on site, residents will have quick access to medical attention as well.

Daymark features three buildings in the front of the campus that house classrooms, game rooms, a 24-hour monitored fitness center and an outdoor spacious resort-style pool. Other facilities include a movie theater, mock kitchen, clubhouse, a sports court, computer labs and private study lounges for continuing education needs. A full-service dining hall is also included to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A shuttle service is also active on-site to provide transportation for residents for off-campus employment and volunteer opportunities, programs, shopping and entertainment.

Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce President Sandy King explained it has been a community effort to provide volunteer and work opportunities for Daymark residents with the Miracle League of Ellis County and the Waxahachie Family YMCA.

King then shared when she was a young girl, her mother was an assistant teacher in special education.

“She would have her students come over as guests to the house, so I just grew up in an inclusive environment," King said. "When I saw this inclusive movement in Waxahachie I was like I have to get involved.”

The residents have been phased in gradually over time with Michael — the son of John Poston— as the first resident, and now 20 reside at Daymark. Hosting a variety of residents with Asperger’s, Autism, Spina Bifida, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, and Turner syndrome, Daymark Living will accommodate 202 tenants at full capacity. Each residence pod has a dedicated coach on-site daily and are paired with the same residents consistently.

The 144,853 square-foot gated community includes 28 furnished cottages that sit on 20 acres with an additional 20 acres used for outdoor activities — not to mention the adjacent property of 60 acres that encompasses one million tulips at Poston Gardens.

Daymark broke ground May 24 on Cantrell Street, to improve the quality of life for many Ellis County residents.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450