Our Beginning

LaRoche Family, 2008

After taking part in an international mission trip, Vicki was inspired to begin a special needs ministry at her own church. Her mission trip experience led her to step out of her comfort zone and lead the pursuit of ministering to the special needs community. Because two of her three children (Lindsey and Tyler) had intellectual disabilities, she knew firsthand the difficulties of finding a place within the church where those with special needs and their families could be supported.

To address this problem, she and a partner started the Glowing Lights Special Needs Ministry at Sugarloaf United Methodist Church in 2005. It was highlighted by a once-a-month outreach program known as NIGHTLIGHTS as well as a Sunday School class.

NIGHTLIGHTS was designed to be a social event at the church and was held one Friday night of each month. Unbeknownst to Vicki, this program was the beginning of a ministry beyond her dreams and beyond her church.

Vicki, her husband Stu, and their son Austin delighted in the simple observation of the joyful engagement and laughter enjoyed by the adults with special needs who attended—including Lindsey and Tyler. They learned that these adults were seldom with their peers because they were 22 or older and no longer in school together. Lindsey was already facing this situation, and Tyler would soon.

It didn’t take long for Vicki and Stu to recognize that the need for support of adults with special needs was not only within our churches but also in our communities. This motivated them to explore the possibility of a social program with the added element of supporting personal growth.

Although they had no special needs expertise other than being parents, they felt called to address “What happens when the school bus stops coming?” by creating The Next Stop. With the help of son Austin and a leap of faith, The Next Stop opened in September 2007.