The Montagues' Kindred Spirit

Almost since doctors first told them their son Jerod had severe cerebral palsy, Jim and Lois Montague have been preparing for the day when they would no longer be capable of taking care of him. What the Montagues didn’t plan for was being at the forefront of building a $2 million, 11,000-square-foot group home to house 30-year-old Jerod and seven other severely handicapped young adults.


Almost since doctors first told them their son Jerod had severe cerebral palsy, Jim and Lois Montague have been preparing for the day when they would no longer be capable of taking care of him.

What the Montagues didn’t plan for was being at the forefront of building a $2 million, 11,000-square-foot group home to house 30-year-old Jerod and seven other severely handicapped young adults.

“If I had known how big a project this was going to be when we got started, I would have gotten scared and ran away,” Jim Montague says with a chuckle. Mr. Montague—whose family owns and operates Montague Tool & Manufacturing Company in Clio, Michigan—and his wife, Lois, have donated the land and put nearly every penny they have into the home they are calling Kindred Spirit. Their aim: to build the home debt-free to keep the costs down for residents’ families.Another $400,000 Is Needed

Under construction for about 2 years, the group home needs between another $350,000 and $400,000 in labor and material before it can open its doors. In addition to housing eight handicapped people, the facility will have a 1,300-square-foot apartment for the facility’s house parents, as well as a guest room for parents who want to visit their children.

“I hope we can get it done this year,” says David Gage, the man the Montagues hired to be the director of the home. “There are two hurdles. The first is to get all of the people who made commitments to us to complete the work they’ve promised. The second is getting the next $350,000 or so we need, or getting that amount in materials and labor. Then the fun really begins—staffing, licensing and those kinds of things.”

The Montagues have been planning for a long time for the day when they can let Jerod go on his own. They’re just glad that 26 years after he was first diagnosed, they will have someplace that’s right for their son.

“Ten months after he was born, I came home from work one day and Lois said she wanted to discuss a problem we had with Jerod,” Mr. Montague remembers. The “problem” was that she wasn’t satisfied with the diagnosis doctors had given her about Jerod’s health. “So we got a second opinion, then we got a fifth opinion and then a 25th,” Mr. Montague says.
Nearly 3 years later, when Jerod was 4, doctors finally told the Montagues their son had severe cerebral palsy. Jim says they were happy that they finally had a diagnosis for Jerod and could begin to get on with their lives knowing what his health issues were.

As Jerod got older, Mr. and Mrs. Montague knew they couldn’t count on themselves to take care of him as they aged, nor could they fathom placing that responsibility on their other son and daughter. “If something happens to us, there’s not too many options available,” Mrs. Montague notes. “We also realized that it would be quite a challenge for our son and daughter and their families.”

Besides donating the land for Kindred Spirit, as well as $500,000 of their own money, Mr. and Mrs. Montague continually seek help in meeting their goal to build the home debt-free. Materials and the labor involved for plumbing, electrical, concrete and brickwork have all been donated. Meanwhile, they’ve received checks of varying amounts to put toward other materials and labor.

The Montagues could have more easily made the choice to have Jerod live in another group home, but Mrs. Montague says that isn’t an option. “We did have a choice, and our choice was to do something and not have Jerod in a state home. This takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears . . . and a lot of stamina.”PAWS May Help Provide Funding
Stamina is something Mr. and Mrs. Montague seem to generate. Somehow, Mr. Montague has found the time to develop a new product—PAWS—a workholding system for CNC machines that allows 80 parts to be held at one time. The system, just being introduced, will allow producers of precision machined products to increase their productivity through less downtime.

If all goes well, profits from PAWS will eventually help fund the operations of Kindred Spirit, helping to support the staff and services that will be needed for its residents. “We’d like to have an endowment set up so that the parents of these kids who have been beaten up financially and emotionally have support,” Mr. Montague says.

Meanwhile, the Montagues keep pushing to get the work on Kindred Spirit completed, not only for Jerod but also for the other families who have expressed an interest. “We’ve got 30 people on the waiting list for eight rooms,” Mr. Montague says. “We could fill it up three times over today.”