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04-04-03: St. Peter Nuerological Center plans weekend open house
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 Catholic Church.
    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 handicaps.
    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 afternoon."
    Refreshments will be served in the dining area. Plans also call for information tables for prospective clients and volunteers.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822