Ian Keats’ journey to a more normal life has brought
him to a farm north of Broadway.
Whether it’s feeding chickens in a small coop or
washing the dishes, he sees the farm off Mountain Valley
Road as his way back to a healthier life.
Crossing Creeks has been open for more than a year,
serving as a therapeutic community for people with
long-term mental illness, such as schizophrenia and
Now, the organization is looking to expand so more
people can receive assistance through work and
Based On Massachusetts Farm
The operation is partially based on the Gould Farm in
Massachusetts, an emotional rehabilitation setting in
operation for more than 100 years.
The board of directors has plans to expand the
Rockingham center to accommodate more people over the
years. Crossing Creeks is applying to the Rockingham
County Board of Supervisors for a special-use
The permit would allow Crossing Creeks to add three
residential buildings and an activity building onto the
156-acre farm. It would also allow the farm to host up
to six residents this year and a maximum of 30 by
Now, two clients live at the farm.
The county board is expected to consider the permit
at its meeting Wednesday.
John Otenasek, the program manager for Crossing
Creeks, said the community’s organizers want the
facility to become a fully functioning farm. Apple trees
and grapevines already have been planted and a chicken
coop is in place.
Otenasek, who went to Gould for three years to deal
with his schizophrenia and remains a member of Gould’s
board of trustees, said farming gives clients skills
they can use and offers some therapy as they try to
transition to a healthier life.
"This is for people who are discharged from
hospitals, but may not be ready to go back" to society,
Crossing Creeks’ organizers met with neighboring
property owners last week to discuss concerns about the
facility, including questions about whether the clients
Clients at Crossing Creeks voluntarily go to the
farm, and the facility does not accept clients who are
violent or are sexual offenders, Otenasek said.
Nearly two dozen people visited the facility Saturday
for a volunteer community workday, held on the third
Saturday of every month. Visitors worked with Crossing
Creek staff and board members on chopping firewood,
painting window shutters and insulating the building to
save on heating costs.
Sharing, Learning To Manage
Pat Hostetter Martin, a member of the Crossing Creeks
board, said the place she and others are working on is a
place where people can learn about their illness and get
support while working.
"It helps you learn about what you have to do and to
get better," said Hostetter Martin, whose son went to
the Gould farm in Massachusetts for his schizo-affective
disorder. He is no longer there. "There’s no cure, but
there is definitely recovery."
Keats, 43, of Charlottesville, has been at Crossing
Creeks for about a year. He lives with bipolar disorder
and found himself sleeping all day before going to
"My life had spun down to nothing," he said. "I had
no kind of life."
At Crossing Creeks, he said, things are improving as
he finds support from the people who work there. His
work at Crossing Creeks includes feeding the chickens
and rounding up their eggs. He also gets some support
from a former client.
"Coming here has given me a sense of community,"
Contact Melvin Mason at 574-6273 or email@example.com