Easter Seals To Establish Community Campus in Kahului

Easter Seals to have home of own
Former ML&P site will house clients, expand services

January 30, 2011 – By MELISSA TANJI
Article from: The Maui News

KAHULUI – Easter Seals Hawaii hopes to soon begin a $7 million extensive renovation project to establish a community campus in Kahului where its programs can expand and its clients can easily interact with the community and have a place to live independently.

By this summer, the nonprofit expects to start work on a 1.7-acre parcel adjacent to the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center that used to house the Kamehameha Schools and Maui Land & Pineapple preschools as well as ML&P’s former offices and dormitories. Easter Seals hopes it can move into part of its renovated new digs in early 2012.

“It fits such a need for Maui. I feel like it’s a dream come true,” said Roxann Kehus, Maui County manager of Easter Seals Hawaii.

There are 777 known teens and young adults on Maui with developmental disabilities about to or ready to transition into society after leaving school, Kehus said.

With the new campus brings the possibility of having more vocational education and job skill training for those who have developmental disabilities and special needs. The campus will also have a housing component for Easter Seals adult clients.

“I think it’s great,” said John Maher, whose 36-year-old son, Sean, is an Easter Seals client. John Maher said his son already enjoys Easter Seals’ programs and activities, which include going to the beach and shopping.

“The thing we worry about, we’re not kids anymore, what will happen to (Sean) if something happens to us. To have him in an Easter Seals facility would be fantastic,” said Maher about the campus’ proposed living quarters.

Josette Barrett, whose 18-year-old daughter, Rachel, is a client of Easter Seals, is also happy about the program’s expansion to include more job training for those like her daughter, who want to get a job after leaving school.

Currently Easter Seals on Maui holds its programs at the Cameron Center in Wailuku. The organization assists children and adults with developmental disabilities and special needs, such as Down syndrome, autism, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and sensory impairments.

But having their own facility would allow programs to grow and improve, Kehus said.

Currently Easter Seals on Maui has 60 clients from children to adults, and that number could easily double with the new facility, Kehus said. But she added that it’s not about the numbers but the quality of the programs, which she said would improve with the new facility.

In addition to using the old preschool buildings for a computer lab, game room and kitchen/training area, the grassy portions around the buildings can be used for gardens and play areas – outdoor options not easily achievable at the Cameron Center.

“We can’t just dig a hole where we want,” Kehus said.

Kehus said the new complex will allow Easter Seals to have more space and more programs to help people with disabilities learn how to get into the work force and integrate into the community.

That could also include creating jobs at the Easter Seals campus. She said the site could possibly include a laundry service or a car cleaning and washing service.

She added there is a “paradigm shift,” in which people are not just viewing those with disabilities as people who need to be cared for but as those who can work and contribute to the community.

“We have a chance to make a bold statement,” said Easter Seals Hawaii CEO and President John Howell, who is excited about the project and its possibilities.

He added that having its own site will also bring cost savings to the nonprofit.

Howell said that with the soft economy, the agency has seen many budget cuts to its programs.

“Its been brutal,” he said.

He said the organization will save around $100,000 a year when it moves to its own location, and that money can be put back into Easter Seals programs.

Although Howell said Easter Seals liked it at Cameron Center, the organization had to jump at the opportunity to have its own site.

The agency has already acquired the ML&P site and buildings for $1.8 million and has also received some additional funding toward renovations.

Howell said the organization needs to raise an additional $4 million to $6 million in order to complete the renovations.

“We are fairly comfortable the fundraising will be a success,” he said of the capital campaign.

He said Easter Seals has held three previous capital campaigns in 12 years and has “a successful track record.”

The organization is also seeking grants.

“We really do hope the Maui community will support us as well,” Howell said.

After all renovations are complete and the programs are in place, he estimates the total cost of the new center would total around $10 million.

The work will be done in phases, with the first renovating the three buildings formerly used by the preschools. The three buildings have covered walkways, and there is also a central courtyard.

The second phase will involve renovating the two-story, 10,000-square-foot metal building used as a dormitory and office. The first floor when complete will be used as activity space for programs like vocational training, and could also be used by other community groups interested in renting the space. The second floor will be converted to eight one-bedroom and studio residential units where independent adults with disabilities can live. An elevator will be added to the building to make it accessible.

Kehus and Howell said there is a shortage of independent housing for people with disabilities on Maui.

They both added that the housing’s proximity to the bus line at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center as well as shopping facilities and University of Hawaii Maui College makes it an ideal location for the organization’s clientele.

Kehus said the second phase will also add two more buildings to the complex. That would bring it to a total of 6,000 square feet of building space for the five structures.

Howell hopes work can begin on the second phase in 2012 and be finished in 2013.

According to Easter Seals, the organization currently has 80 staff members, but staffing is expected to climb to 125 employees with the new campus.