Give Jeff a canvas, paints, and a paintbrush and he’s one very happy man! For years his whimsical illustrations of animals, people, and nature have tickled the imagination. No doubt, Picasso would have delighted in the playful perspective of Swimming Under the Sea featured on the cover! Jeff was born in 1962 with Down syndrome, the firstborn son of Terry and Jeanne Vliek, and the eldest of four siblings, Katy, Ann, and Terry John.
Beginning at age three, he attended several special education schools in Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota. In 1978 the family settled in Jacksonville, where Jeff graduated from the Alden Road Exceptional Student Center in 1980. After graduation, he attended the day training program at Pine Castle. In 1989 Jeff was welcomed to Harbor House (now L’Arche Jacksonville) and began participating in the Rainbow Workshop day program.
To say the least, he has flourished in this creative environment; his imagination has soared, much to the enjoyment of all who know him and appreciate his humor and artistic vision. Jeff is blessed with a close-knit family, lovingly supportive of Down syndrome. His sister Ann is the mother of two children with Down syndrome – one adopted; and sister-in-law Michelle has founded a business, Reading Solutions, to promote reading proficiency for children and adults, including those with Down syndrome. For 30 years, since the age of 27, Jeff has been a core member at L’Arche Jacksonville, sharing life in Peace House with four fellow core members and several assistants. He enjoys frequent weekend visits with his parents, but upon returning to Peace House his first words are always: “I’m Home!”