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|04-04-03: St. Peter Nuerological Center plans weekend
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
BURKETTSVILLE - St. Peter Neurological Center will host an open house
from 12:30-4 p.m. Sunday to show off its newly renovated home.
The spacious building that was once Burkettsville Elementary School provides
nearly double the space of its previous location, a former school owned by St. Peter
Staff and clients will be on hand Sunday demonstrating therapy and
equipment during guided tours of the facility, which is unique in its field.
"We are not aware of any other facility in the country that provides
this kind of therapy free of charge," Director Joan Kiser said. "Most of our
clients have been through physical therapy but physical therapy does not provide what
neurological therapy does."
The center deals primarily with neurologically impaired clients, who
because of damage to their brain cells, suffer from physical, perceptual and academic
Neurological impairment covers a broad spectrum including brain injury,
mental retardation, cerebral palsy, stroke, Down Syndrome, Parkinson's disease, multiple
sclerosis, learning disabilities and spinal cord injuries.
"This building and the way everything turned out is a dream come
true," said assistant director Zelda Zizelman. "It's really more than that -
it's the answer to a lot of prayers."
The decision to purchase the Burkettsville building from the St. Henry
Local School District did not come easily despite the token $1 price. The center's board
of directors initially looked at the building in November 2000, focusing on how to make
the three-story building accessible to handicapped patients. Gaining the required state
approval was another challenge. That hurdle was cleared with the assistance of Mike Bruns,
an engineer with Mote & Associates, Greenville, and state Rep. Keith Faber and
state Sen. Jim Jordan.
Board members considered the purchase a win-win situation. Not only
would the center have the room it desperately needed, but the school district would avoid
the $227,000 cost of demolishing the building.
"The first time the staff toured the building we saw all the
problems," Kiser said. "It took a few visits before we started considering the
problems and the probable solutions one at a time."
Renovation efforts began July 1 and continued throughout the summer and
fall months. Inside and outside ramps were added along with a handicapped-accessible
restroom on the first floor and state-mandated fire doors. The former library became
offices for the program's tutor and certified evaluator. A storage area now serves as the
vision therapy room.
School trappings like lockers and chalkboards have been stripped away.
Along with a thorough cleaning, the entire building received fresh paint as well as
carpeting and dropped ceiling tile in select areas. Three large classrooms on the lower
level now house therapy equipment instead of desks. Meanwhile, the four classrooms on the
upper floor offer the possibility for further expansion in the future. Air conditioning
has been installed and the entire parking lot paved.
Ken Buzard, a center employee who headed the renovation and relocation
effort, admits the ambitious project turned out even better than he dreamed.
"The support of people, businesses and organizations has been
beyond belief," he added. "The cost would have been in excess of $300,000 if we
had to pay for all the material and labor. To date, we have spent $102,000."
Numerous donations, including those from six area banks and Midwest
Electric cooperative, have recouped some of the outlay. Buzard is hopeful additional
donations will cover the remainder so as not to impact the center's operating budget.
Kiser clearly remembers the day (June 11, 1984) the program opened at a
former school building owned by the St. Peter Catholic Church.
"It was a Monday and Theresa Heyne, Jim Heyne, Rick Sutter and I
drove up not knowing what to expect. There were 11 volunteers waiting out front and we
have been blessed ever since."
The center had eight clients by the end of the first summer. The roster
currently lists 40 clients, ranging in age from infants to senior citizens, and a like
number of volunteers. They come from a five-county area in Ohio and neighboring Indiana.
The program has been bursting at the seams in recent years with space
at a premium. The board initially proposed purchasing the St. Peter site but the parish
opted to retain ownership of the building which is used for religious education classes
and other functions.
"We've had three open houses over the years," Kiser said.
"The first drew more than 500 people so we're not sure how many to expect Sunday
Refreshments will be served in the dining area. Plans also call for
information tables for prospective clients and volunteers.
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