DISABILITY ADVOCATES of KENT COUNTY and THRESHOLDS HOLD JOINT RIBBON CUTTING of NEW OFFICES at SPECIAL OLYMPICS of MICHIGAN UNIFIED SPORTS & INCLUSION CENTER
Two Organizations Join Others at SOMI Campus Serving Children & Adults with Disabilities
(GRAND RAPIDS, MI) Disability Advocates of Kent County is an organization that strives to eliminate systemic barriers and enhance programs so that people with disabilities can live the self-directed lives they choose. Thresholds provide housing and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and give them the support they need to reach their maximum potential in everything they do.
The two organizations will officially open their new offices at the Special Olympics of Michigan’s (SOMI) building and campus on Thursday, May 12, at 4:00. They join SOMI plus six other organizations that focus on services for children and adults with disabilities.
According to Tim Hileman, President, and CEO of Special Olympics of Michigan, this collection of organizations will “show the world the importance of community and inclusion – a campus where all gifts and all abilities are celebrated, a campus that will not only raise awareness but raise expectations.”
Community and inclusion are the inspiration for Disability Advocates and Thresholds to join together for their official grand opening. “Our organizations serve similar individuals and we were eager to join with Special Olympics and the other organizations that support those with disabilities. It is a community of nonprofits that can benefit from a common location and the proximity it offers to increase awareness of who we all are and what we do,” said David Bulkowski, Executive Director of Disability Advocates.
Jacquie Johnson, President/CEO of Thresholds agrees: “There will be such a collective strength for all of us sharing the same building and campus and embracing the collaborative possibilities it provides.”
For 27 years, Disability Advocates had been in four office suites that lacked cohesion and usable space. The move to SOMI provides room for its Home Accessibility Center which offers a dedicated area for persons with disabilities, their families and builders, planners and architects to experience, firsthand, the benefits of universally accessible space and state-of-the-art specialty equipment.
The space is 8,600 square feet, with 24 offices, an additional 16 workspaces, two conference rooms, a coffee break area, and additional storage for durable medical equipment.
“We are very excited to be part of the collaborative environment that the SOMI campus offers, but we are most excited to showcase our new Home Accessibility Center,” said Bulkowski. “This will be a place where people with disabilities and their families can explore ways to renovate and retrofit their homes so they can be more independent. And it will serve as an educational tool for rehabilitation and design professionals and building contractors to learn what a universally-accessible living space can look like.”
Wolverine Building Group was the general contractor for Disability Advocates offices. Curt Mulder, the company’s President said “We are honored to serve the mission of Disability Advocates of Kent County through the innovative construction of their new headquarters and occupational therapy showroom. It is our hope that once the community experiences these offices and the programs they house, we would all be inspired to build more access for people with disabilities.”
Thresholds moved from two buildings that housed administrative staff and service providers. For nearly 50 years, Thresholds has offered support to adults with developmental disabilities in group homes as well as throughout the community. The new offices at the Special Olympics building comprise 7,500 square feet with 14 individual offices, workstations for staff, plus “drop in” work spaces for those who only occasionally come into the office. In addition, Thresholds will have two conference rooms, a kitchen, and other gathering places for formal meetings, as well as informal conversations and consultation areas for Thresholds staff.
“Our previous offices were in aging buildings that did not provide economical or efficient use of space,” Johnson said. “We are thrilled not only with the location of our new office and our building partners, but also the room, beauty and natural light the building affords. We are extremely thankful to Mathison | Mathison Architects for their thoughtful and inspired design.” Mathison | Mathison Architects also designed Disability Advocates office space.
According to Evan Mathison, Founding Principal of Mathison | Mathison Architects, “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Thresholds and Disability Advocates to transform their space from what had been high school classrooms to an attractive and functional office environment. We are pleased with the results and delighted that Thresholds and Disability Advocates are as well.”
Nick Haglund, Project Manager, Erhardt Construction -- the general contractor for the building -- said “We were very excited with the vision that Special Olympics of Michigan and its partner agencies had for the building and the extraordinary opportunity to bring such dedicated, like-minded nonprofit organizations together in this unique construction and collection of service providers for individuals with disabilities.”
The Grand Opening celebration will begin at 4:00 with the official ribbon cutting and brief remarks at 5:00. Representatives of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce will also participate in the event. There will be refreshments.
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About Disability Advocates of Kent County
Disability Advocates of Kent County was founded in 1981 by persons with disabilities who sought to help themselves and others with disabilities gain control over their own lives. We strive to eliminate systemic barriers and enhance programs so that people with disabilities can live the self-directed life they choose. Our community benefits by becoming more accessible, inclusive, and welcoming for all. We have become recognized locally and across the state, specifically for our home accessibility services, transit advocacy, community education, technical assistance on accessibility, and Universal Design through our Absolutely Accessible Kent program.
About Building Opportunities, Creating Independence
A $2.5 million fundraising effort launched in early 2021 to move the organization’s headquarters to the new Special Olympics campus in Byron Township. The effort was announced at a special public campaign launch event September 14, 2021.
Lead gifts came from area business and community leaders such as:
· Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation
· Meijer Foundation
· Mike and Sue Jandernoa Foundation
· Wege Foundation
· John and Nancy Kennedy Family Foundation
· Frey Foundation
· Dr. Kimberly Y. Barrington
The public campaign was the first in 40 years for Disability Advocates.
About The Facility
The new headquarters covers 8,600 SF.
Officially moved into new space in April 2022.
40% of its construction budget spent with local minority-owned contractors, including:
· DHE Plumbing
· Monte Christo Electric
· Grand Rapids Fire Suppression.
Wolverine Building Group served as the general contractor.
Mathison| Mathison Architects served as the architect.
Disability Advocates is one of nine disability organizations occupying the former South Christian High School, which is currently being transformed into the largest Special Olympics training and inclusion center in the world.
The new facility provides significantly more space for Special Olympics and Disability Advocates program staff, volunteers, and clients with disabilities.
The new space will also allow the organization to build the area’s first Occupational Therapy (OT) home accessibility center.
About the Home Accessibility Center
The Home Accessibility Center is a place where people with disabilities explore ways to renovate and retrofit their homes so they can be more independent. It serves as a “test space” showroom where persons with disabilities, their families and design professionals and building contractors can explore options for a safer home, including models and adaptive equipment, something that is not offered anywhere in the region.
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