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EASTER SEALS UPDATES TWO BUILDINGS
Easter Seals-Goodwill is more than halfway through centralizing its services by rehabilitating two older buildings with the aid of two brownfields environmental cleanup grants and community support.
The nonprofit organization with programs for people with developmental disabilities received two federal Environmental Protection Agency grants, administered locally by the Great Falls Development Authority, totaling $587,600 to rid the buildings of hazardous wastes. The grants allow the $6.1 million raised in local contributions to pay for renovation for the environmentally cleaned-up buildings to create kitchenettes, bathrooms, classrooms and other facilities tailored for each program.
It’s the first full-scale renovation that Easter Seals-Goodwill has undertaken in its more than 60 years in Great Falls, said Michelle Belknap, president and CEO of Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain Inc.
It will be a huge benefit having facilities more suited for our needs,” she said, adding that the previous facilities, scattered in seven aging buildings around town, “we’re outdated and not functional for our program participants.”
When the projects are completed by early next year, the many programs will be located in three buildings adapted specifically to their use, improving efficiency and eliminating the need for program participants to be driven around town.This will create the environment we’ve always dreamed of,” Belknap said.
Phase 1, completed last fall, involved purchasing and renovating the former First Interstate Bank building at 425 1st Ave. N. The $350,000 brownfields grant allowed environmental cleanup specialists to remove 60 tons of debris containing hazardous materials so the contractor could start rehabilitation work with a clean slate.
The downtown site has separate spaces to help participants who have more potential to live independently learn through vocational Supported Employment and Workforce Development programs that teach them to work in jobs in the community or contracted, in-house jobs such as shredding documents. The Supported Living program helps them learn cooking, shopping and cleaning skills.
“We were able to clean up and renovate the former bank building and make it very functional, providing more room for programs we moved from our eastside location,” Belknap said. “It’s great to put programs together for those people who can benefit from the downtown location for work, shopping, eating and social activities.”
The downtown facility has a computer center, in which participants can learn job search and computer skills; a model kitchen where they can learn to make healthy, inexpensive meals; and multi-use rooms where they can learn to balance a checkbook, make medical appointments and plan bus routes.
The training kitchen at the former location was crammed into a small space, making it hard for cooking class participants to observe the instructor, she said. The new one is spacious enough for them to watch the instructor and make their own projects.
The downtown location has 90 employees, including 50 who provide administrative and support services as the headquarters office for Easter Seals-Goodwill, Northern Rocky Mountain chapter, which includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Overall, Easter Seals-Goodwill has 416 employees in Great Falls, which is the chapter’s headquarters, making it the city’s fourth largest private employer.
Meanwhile, Belknap said Easter Seals-Goodwill officials are excited about the second cleanup and restoration effort that started in December at the nonprofit’s main, eastside building at 4400 Central Ave.
Crews with Schroeder Contracting of Billings, a hazardous materials abatement specialist, are “pretty much gutting the building down to its original shell, including some exterior walls and interior load-bearing walls,” under a $237,600 brownfields cleanup grant, said project engineer Keith Cron with CTA of Great Falls. It was built with materials commonly used when it was constructed in the 1950s, including asbestos insulation, lead paint, mercury fixtures and PCB coolants, that now are considered hazardous.
The facility was first built as a doctor’s office in 1957, old enough that it was used for polio exam rooms about the time when the first polio vaccinations were given. Crews uncovered a former therapy swimming pool and the wooden slats of a small gym.
“Easter Seals acquired the building in the mid-1960s,” Belknap said. “We added on and remodeled several times, but never did a comprehensive restructuring.”
THE HISTORY MUSEUM ANNOUNCES LEGACY AWARD RECIPIENTS
Great Falls, MT - The History Museum announced the honorees for the 23rd Legacy Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that have made a significant contribution to the preservation of history of Cascade County and northcentral Montana.
WEST END GOODWILL GETS EXPANSION
BILLINGS - Bargain hunters in Billings will soon have more space to stalk good deals at their neighborhood thrift store. The Easter Seals Goodwill at 951 South 29th St. West will increase its footprint by 50 percent this spring.
"We just really outgrew the space," said Tammy Zubick-Munguia, the Billings store manager. More than 400 people visit the store on a given day and purchase at least 2,000 items. The space, which employs about 50 people, will grow from 20,000 square feet to 30,000.
During the summer months, when most of the donations come in, employees can hardly keep up and warehouse space gets scarce, Zubick-Munguia said. Alana Coronato, a linen processor at the Billings Store, said having the extra 7,000 square feet of warehouse space will make her job easier.
"It's hard to fold stuff like afghans and comforters in a limited area," she said, as she folded a blanket and hung it on a rack behind her. "We get king(-sized) comforters and they're really heavy. It's hard to fold up when you only have 3 feet of space," she said.
The expansion will include a covered area where people can drop off donations, larger restrooms, reconfigured cash register bays and an extra 3,000 square feet of space on the sales floor. "Everything is going to be a little bit bigger," Shalene Sparling, director of the Easter Seals Montana Goodwill stores, said.
The addition will also make the Billings store the largest in the Easter Seals, Northern Rocky Mountain system, which operates 14 stores in four states. Easter Seals is a non-profit charity that helps children and the families of children with autism and other disabilities.
The building permit application with the city states the addition is being built by Billings contractor, Langlas and Associates, and was designed by Collaborative Design Architects, a local design firm. The addition will cost $819,000, the document states.
The store will pay for some portions of the renovation up-front, and the rest will be paid off through their lease with the property's owner, Sparling said. The building is owned by the Corning Companies.
BILLINGS - Cindy Butler is a treasure hunter. She combs second-hand stores, auctions and estate sales looking for nativity scenes, antiques, props for plays, diamond rings, chess sets and walls full of art to give to friends, family or to keep for herself.
"I could tell you what I don’t collect, before I could tell you what I do collect," she said.
The Easter Seals Goodwill in Billings sells about 700 items a month on shopgoodwill.com. "We have a high sell-rate," said Suann Wright, shopgoodwill.com supervisor, for the Easter Seals Goodwill store in Billings. About 80 to 90 percent of the items they put up on the site get sold, she said.
HOPE GETS A NEW HOME: EASTER SEALS-GOODWILL MAKES MOVE DOWNTOWN
GREAT FALLS -Easter Seals-Goodwill will welcome the community at a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event Thursday at its new location at 425 1st Ave. N. For the staff and clients of Easter Seals-Goodwill, the new building, which was purchased from First Interstate Bank, is more than just a brick-and-mortar structure. It is, officials say, the embodiment of the nonprofit’s mission.
The new location will house several programs and administrative and support offices. Easter Seals-Goodwill purchased the building to centralize its services and customize the facility for the needs of its clients, said Michelle Belknap, president and CEO of Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain region.
“Our facilities were outdated and not functional for our clients,” Belknap said. “This is the environment we’ve always dreamed of.”
For example, the new supported-living kitchen is spacious and boasts modern appliances. Clients who take cooking classes have enough room to watch the instructor and make their own projects.
Eda McKamey takes classes in the kitchen several times a week. One day she may be doing arts and crafts and another day she may be learning how to cook a new dish. Eda, 30, has been coming to Easter Seals-Goodwill for about eight years, said her mother, Denise McKamey.
When Eda first came to Easter Seals-Goodwill, Denise says she was shy, rarely spoke and didn’t make eye contact with people. She now works two jobs after learning skills in the Easter Seals-Goodwill workforce development programs and is much more able to socialize with people thanks to supported living activities that get her out with her peers.
“She has thrived, grown by leaps and bounds,” Denise said. “It’s built up her confidence, and she’s not afraid to go out and try something else.”
Denise said Eda is already raving about the new facility and talks about it often.
“They are so proud that they’re part of this organization,” Denise said of Eda and her peers. “All of these guys have disabilities: They know they’re disabled, they know their shortcomings. Easter Seals takes the ‘dis’ out of it and finds out what they’re strong at, their abilities, and makes them shine through.”
The Great Falls office serves as the headquarters for a four-state region and is one of the largest private employers in Cascade County, with 402 employees in 2012. Ninety employees will work out of the building on 1st Avenue North, Belknap said.
Clients and staff are already seeing benefit, as the new downtown building is starting to be utilized.
For example, in the kitchen in the former location “they were crammed into a tiny space,” said Chelle Feist, community relations officer at Easter Seals-Goodwill. “Now they have a big, beautiful kitchen with a dishwasher, a two-basin sink and lots of room to work. This is our mission in action.”
Visitors to the new building will enter a bright foyer that is markedly different from the bank it replaces. Classrooms have windows so people can see in and out and one wall in the foyer is dedicated to donors.
This is the first full-scale remodel Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain has undertaken in its more than 60-year history in Great Falls.
“There is a huge benefit having facilities more suited to our needs,” Belknap said.
The downtown location will make Easter Seals-Goodwill a bigger part of the community, too, with its employees and clients sifting in and out during the day, Belknap said.
The building will house Medallion Home Care, personal care, supported living, supported employment and workforce development programs, in addition to offices.
The move to the building on 1st Avenue North is Phase 1 in Easter Seals-Goodwill’s efforts to provide better services to its clients and to the community.
Phase 2 has just begun and involves renovating the building located at 4400 Central Ave. to accommodate the adult day services, life skills, OutSources Unlimited and community access programs.
Easter Seals-Goodwill’s capital campaign, begun to fund the changes, has a fundraising goal of $6 million. Of that, the Rice Family agreed to match $1 million. The deadline for the $1 million match is the end of this year, and Belknap said they are close to reaching that amount.
The Goodwill store now located at 1210 9th St. S. will soon move to 1201 7th St. S. Easter Seals-Goodwill will lease the building.
While this move is not part of the capital campaign, it will increase Easter Seals-Goodwill’s ability to serve the community. The new store will feature about double the retail space and will move the sorting plant, now located at 4400 Central Ave., to the store.
All told, six locations will be pared down to three by the end of the capital campaign.
Belknap and Feist added that local businesses have stepped up to help Easter Seals-Goodwill get comfortable in their new location.
Some businesses donated furniture, they said, and others provided in-kind work to renovate the building.
“What this does for the people we serve is so exciting,” Feist said