The Making of a Trusted Friend

A parent-driven idea years in the making

In the mid 1960s, a group of East Bay parents of adult children with disabilities started sharing notes on their high stress levels from providing round-the-clock care.  They were part of a respite committee formed under the Alameda and Contra Costa Developmental Disability Councils.  Devoted parents, all they knew they’d be even better if they could get regular breaks.  For some, it was an urgent need.

A few options existed.  They could hire caregivers to help in their homes, seek short-term space in nursing homes, or place their children permanently outside the home, which often meant far away. Many families tried these options with varying success.  Nursing home space is limited, pricey, and designed for the sick or frail elderly.  Home caregivers can be expensive and often need regular supervision.

The “perfect” respite solution didn’t exist, these parents decided. They defined perfect as affordable, accessible, safe, and as guilt-free as possible.  And so, they kept talking. And talking. For 24 years.  And from this conversation, an idea took shape.

Cleanliness, safety, experienced staff – these were no-brainers for the parents.  They also wanted care close to their home.  But something more was on everyone’s mind – dignity.  What if, these parents thought, you could check your child into a setting that would be as much of a welcome experience for them as for you?

A bed & breakfast model has staying power

In the 1980s, bed and breakfast inns were all the rage, with travelers appreciating the homey experience.  This image locked in the minds of the Respite Committee.  They took a fact-finding trip, visited bed and breakfasts around the Bay Area, to understand how they worked.  They shared their vision with nonprofits, community groups, and governmental agencies working with the disabled.  Excitement grew.  Momentum surged.  The long conversation morphed into a tangible reality – an Inn, a Respite Inn.

If ever a collaboration of volunteers worked magic, this was it.  Numerous East Bay disability groups, in a potent show of arms, committed to working together to build the Inn.  A nonprofit was established, now they needed a place.  They scanned real estate ads looking for something quiet, big, adaptable for wheelchair accessibility, –and cheap.  When an offer fell through on a ramshackle but roomy Concord home, the planners took a bold step, bidding on the property “as is”.  Their bid won, leaving the team excited and anxious.

Word spread quickly.  Plumbers, electricians, and carpenters from local unions appeared tools in hand, and whipped the  Lee Lane house into tiptop shape – all as volunteers.  Boy Scouts tamed the overgrown, junk-strewn yard. Big corporations and mom & pop businesses sent helpers, and made donations.  The Girl Scouts pitched in, as did the Knights of Columbus.  Helping was contagious.

A grand opening and full sail

On a chilly February 23, 1990, The Respite Inn held it’s official opening.  Some of the original Respite Committee parents attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting with local politicians and community leaders.  Many had passed.  Their legacy soars.

Opening Celebration

Sister MaryGrace, Founder, opening day of The Respite Inn

Ad Hoc Committee on Respite

A few members of the Ad Hoc committee who developed The Respite Inn

Since 1990, The Respite Inn  has weathered and survived through many economic storms to keep it’s doors open. Since the beginning and to this day, The Respite Inn is literally a “life saver” for many families.  It’s a trusted friend for parents whose adult child with developmental disabilities can’t live without daily assistance.  Best yet, it’s a trusted friend for those “children” as well.


The Respite Inn was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Alameda County Developmental Disabilities Council, the Contra Costa Developmental Disabilities Council and the following agencies:

  • Alameda ARC
  • Contra Costa ARC
  • Cerebral Palsy Center
  • East Bay Services
  • Family Support Services
  • Clausen House
  • Las Trampas
  • United Cerebral Palsy

The invaluable support of the City of Concord and the City of Walnut Creek along with the hard work and expertise of the following Labor Unions who dedicated many hours of volunteer time:

  • PLUMBERS Local 159
  • CARPENTERS Local 152
  • ELECTRICIANS  Local 302
  • PAINTERS Local 741

The Respite Inn would like to thank the many individuals, groups, and organizations that graciously volunteer and contribute their resources to our continued success. A special thanks to the Knights of Columbus for their ongoing support from their annual MR Drive.