Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Easter Seals facility links generations - Gazette

New intergenerational building offers services to seniors and youngsters with disabilities

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008
Adults and young children with disabilities have a new place to get help and guidance in Silver Spring - and it happens to be the same place.

The Easter Seals Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center, which will provide care and services to adults with disabilities and children up to 5 years old with disabilities, has opened its doors at 1420 Spring St. in Silver Spring.

The center will focus on the development of children with disabilities and teaching adults with disabilities how to live independently. Many of the programs will be integrated, so both age groups can benefit from each other, said Lisa Reeves, president and CEO of Easter Seals, Greater Washington-Baltimore region.

"We don't like isolated, segregated services," Reeves said. "If we bring people together, the different generations have lots to offer each other."

Programs for children began Tuesday and the senior programs are expected to open in late September.

Easter Seals is a national, nonprofit health agency dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities. The center will also serve as Easter Seals regional headquarters.

The center is more than 41,000 square feet, built on an acre of land donated by the county in 2001, valued at about $1.2 million at the time. In return, Easter Seals will pay for most of the center's operating costs, which includes providing services to an aging population in Montgomery County, said Chuck Short, a special assistant to the County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

"There are increasing numbers of much older people who need some assistance with daily living," Short said. "That's exactly the kind of work that Easter Seals does."

Construction on the building began in October 2006, but the project delayed because of a water spring found beneath the site. Reeves said construction costs were about $13 million and $18 million has been raised in the center's capital fundraising campaign, which covers the operating costs. Reeves said about 50 percent of money raised is from private sources and 50 percent from public sources, including grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and various state agencies.

"It began with the vision to create a unique building that would bring together the generations," said Craig Ruppert, CEO of the Laytonsville-based Ruppert Companies and chairman of the center's capital campaign.

While the center will focus on integrated services for children and adults, it is divided into a child development center and senior day center.

The senior center includes a plush common room, an outdoor patio and a cosmetology room where disabled seniors can receive specialized hygienic services.

Services for seniors can be covered by Medicaid, the Montgomery County Office of Aging and Adult Services, the Montgomery County Department of Veterans Affairs or can be paid for privately.

Reeves said the senior center will be "licensed like a nursing home, but without the white coats," with a registered nurse, physical therapist, recreation therapist and social worker.

The child development center includes a number of classrooms filled with educational toys and games and an outdoor playground.

To be admitted to the Inter-generational Center, a child must have a developmental delay of 25 percent in any of four physical or emotional areas: social and emotional development, physical development, cognitive development, and speech and language.

"There is a very comprehensive plan for different age groups and different developmental levels," said Marilyn Ricker, vice president of children's programs for the region. "Each child will have an individual plan."

The second floor of the building contains offices for about 40 administrative staffers and an Assistive Technology Center, which contains about $300,000 worth of leading technology for the disabled.

Computers with speech recognition programs and phones that can be dialed using a person's breath are among the technology center's features.

Near the technology center, there is a full kitchen furnished with appliances and utensils designed for the disabled, so seniors can learn to cook independently. There is also a computer lab with seven disabled-friendly computers.

During the planning process, planners and Easter Seals representatives also met with residents of the nearby community of Woodside Park to limit the impact of construction and gave residents a tour of the building July 31.

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