Glade Run Lutheran Services, a Zelienople nonprofit that’s been providing services to troubled youths for 160 years, is on the threshold of significant change.
Plans are under way to enhance and expand the scope of the agency in ways that had never been contemplated before, said Sheila Talarico, the executive director of the Glade Run Foundation, which supports the agency’s mission to provide services to school-aged children with emotional and behavioral problems
“What we’re doing is huge. We’re transforming our campus and our agency in a way that takes us down a whole new path,” Ms. Talarico said. The Glade Run campus encompasses a residential treatment facility for 95 students with diagnosed emotional and behavioral disabilities; and the St. Stephen’s Lutheran Academy, a school for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities for about 200 students, about half of whom do not live on the Glade Run property.
Key to the multi-faceted project is construction of a residential community to be known as Jeremiah Village. Plans are underway to seek nonprofit status for the housing plan that will be a subsidiary of Glade Run, built on 12 donated acres of property on the Zelienople campus — an expanse of 331 acres off of Route 68. A $2.5 million fundraising campaign known as “Bridging Community” began in January.
There are three main components to the project:
— Jeremiah Village, which is in the midst of the municipal approval process, is envisioned as a residential community designed to accommodate special-needs people and their families, especially adults who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While the neighborhood will be built with an eye toward meeting the needs of the disabled and senior citizens, Ms. Talarico said people without disabilities will be just as welcome. “We want it to be an integrated community,” she said.
— St. Stephen’s, which has operated an autism education program since 2009, will be expanded to include an autism-friendly gymnasium and classrooms. It will replace an aging recreation center. Also to be built is a “learning center” for the agency’s 650 staffers to accommodate the 2,000 hours of training per month that is offered on site. Planning and design is under way but this component of the project will be the last piece, set to open in 2016.
— A sensory park — a playground offering fun activities to everyone in the community, typical as well as special needs children whether or not they are residents or clients of Glade Run — is to be constructed with an eye toward accommodating children on the autism spectrum. Ms. Talarico said the playground will be universally accessible and open to anyone. An outdoor recreation area, the $750,000 playground is expected to be under construction this fall. To the average onlooker, it will appear as any other playground, Ms. Talarico said, but it will be designed “with elements for children with autism and related disorders.” For example, the playground — an acre in size — will incorporate six separate environments within the park. Each will be equipped with only one or two access points to provide for safety. The environments will emphasize various sensory elements, such as auditory, visual, scent and touch using an array of features like grasses, sand, water, and plantings.
“It will look like any other playground but it is being designed to incorporate sensory appropriate items that are arranged in a way that’s ideal for kids on the (autism) spectrum,” Ms. Talarico said.
She said the fundraising campaign is called Bridging Community because, for the first time, Glade Run is extending an invitation to the community to be a part of what happens on its campus.
“We’ve always been somewhat isolated from the community because of the type of work we’ve done. We’ve been very protective of the children we have on campus. But, we’re really seeing the value of inviting the community in,” she said.
The idea surfaced in 2011 at a special convention in which a variety of professionals were invited to speak on topics ranging from social services,to education,to multi-generational issues.
Key topics to explore were how to fund the cost of the agency’s core services in a climate when government subsidies were on the decline; and where do the agency’s clients go when they are finished with their on-campus education.
Jeremiah Village surfaced as an original concept that would expand on the idea of group homes for adults with autism and residential enclaves for people with disabilities. “We looked at the issue of ‘where will the child live’ and how will he be cared for by his aging parents and the concept of Jeremiah Village was born. We could design a residential community for adults with autism as well as their families, including their (senior citizen) parents. A community for all kinds of people,” Ms. Talarico said. The neighborhood would be near the facilities and services offered by Glade Run, as well as the adjacent senior citizens complex known as the Passavant retirement community (operated by Lutheran Senior Life,) and also be accessible to Zelienople’s Downtown business district. “Some people may want to use our transportation or meal services. Or, if they don’t drive, maybe they want to be able to walk to Main Street. It will all be available at their fingertips,” she said.
The $30 million project will be built in stages, with three apartment buildings each containing 144 units total. Surrounding the apartment buildings will be 52 single and multi-family dwellings. The breakdown of how many will be single family versus multi-family (carriage homes and townhouses) will be market driven. A 12,000 square foot community center will anchor the development.
“We see this as a truly diverse community, perfect for senior citizens and young adults with disabilities as well as professionals who want to live in a truly inclusive neighborhood,” Ms. Talarico said. She said she expects a large portion of the apartments and multi-family dwellings to feature “companion suites” that would allow a parent to an adult child with autism to live next to each other or an adult with an aging parent to pair up. Current plans call for each of the three apartment buildings to have 12 700-square-foot efficiency apartments for $1,000 a month; 26 900-square-foot one-bedroom apartments for $1,250 per month; and 10 1,100-to-1,250-square-foot two-bedroom apartments for $1,400 to $1,550 per month. Each building will offer companion units with internal connecting doors between units.
Among the special considerations in the construction of the buildings will be features that deal with sensory issues: the ability to individualize an apartment with certain colors will be offered; sound barriers will be enhanced; showers will be designed with floor drains to prevent a build up of water.
Ms. Talarico said Jeremiah Village would satisfy an unmet need in the community and also produce a new revenue stream for the core services Glade Run provides. She estimated that between $400,000 and $500,000 annually from rental subsidies could be funneled into the agency’s core mission. The time table calls for an opening in early 2016.
Anyone interested in more information or donating to the fundraising campaign is asked to call Ms. Talarico at 724-452-4453, ext. 1244 or to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Kane: email@example.com or at 724-772-9180.