What started out as a goal to relocate a small day habilitation to another community setting, ended up opening the door to true community membership.
The Arc of Ulster-Greene determined a need to relocate a small day habilitation program supporting 18 individuals to a new site. The original program was located in an older office complex with limited space which was having a negative impact on the program participants. During the search for a new program location, we became aware of a former elementary school that was being renovated for use as a town hall for a local community and plans were underway for a second town to relocate their services to this building as well in an effort to share resources. The school building had 3 wings and there was still 1 wing available. We met with the building administrator who welcomed the idea of our program partnering with the 2 local municipalities in this shared use project to re-purpose the building.
We learned that the space available to us was more than we needed for the day habilitation program. This led us to explore additional opportunities for community integration and program development. This was a great fit for the growing needs of The Arc of Ulster-Greene. There were 6 classrooms available in our wing of the building and only three were needed for the day habilitation program. We had an existing need for additional training space so this setting offered a perfect solution. This inspired us to relocate and build upon our staff development and training departments. There was still room for our school-to-work program and the location offered the students work opportunities in this community building. As the building was a former elementary school there was also a cafeteria and kitchen. The cafeteria was available for lease which provided us with the opportunity to create a restaurant, The Blackboard Bistro, offering culinary training and employment for the people we support. The Bistro is not only open to building employees, but the community as well and caters many of the municipal buildings events. This building is truly a community site. In addition to the two town halls, the building also supports a local growers association, two town courts, the local police department, the headquarters for the local highway department and offers space for community use.
The Rondout Municipal Center is a community HUB and the people supported through The Arc of Ulster-Greene play a significant role as members of the community. They not only utilize the building just as the other tenants do, but their presence helps to educate the community on their contributions. While there were challenges in partnering with two municipalities and a police department, we discovered common ground, developed relationships and meaningful community connections.