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A different kind of family

United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland opens two new facilities

United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland opens two new facilities

August 22, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

For 16 years, Rose Marie Newlin, 52, spent her life in a nursing home. There, she says, it was noisy and there weren't many people her own age.

That isn't the case anymore, she says, since moving into Salem East, one of two new apartments on Salem Avenue remodeled by United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland.

"It's really quiet," she says.

Newlin is one of three women with disabilities who are cohabiting at the new facilities. The 2,500-square-foot apartment includes a bedroom for each resident, a full kitchen, a dining room, a handicapped-accessible bathroom with roll-in shower, a laundry room and a large common area. There is an additional bedroom for temporary residents.

An apartment next door, equal in size and similar in lay-out, has space for three more residents plus another room for temporary residents. There's also a deck shared by the two apartments, though it's in need of patio furniture.

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Annamarie Poole, vice president of operations, says UCP had previously used the facilities for a day program. After the Hagerstown Center moved last year to its new location on Oak Ridge Drive, the vacated building allowed UCP to offer the residential program.

The three women, which also includes Judy Yellott, 52, and Becky Smith, 27, have been in the facility since July. Their neighbors for Salem West have already been selected, Poole says, and are expected to move in by September.

Poole says Newlin's story pulled at her heartstrings because she and Newlin are close in age. She says she couldn't imagine having to spend 16 years in a nursing home.

"They're the best years of your life," she says.

The women at the facility, Poole says, are screened through Developmental Disabilities Administration of Maryland. The office determines eligibility of funding for services and if the client's needs can be met through a daily program, residential program or supported employment. The residents decide which agency they want to work with, Poole explains.

Although it is operated by United Cerebral Palsy, the organization's residential homes are not limited to those with cerebral palsy. Actually, Poole says, none of UCP's programs are limited to those with CP.

"We work with all types of people with developmental disabilities," she says.

Poole says the $280,000 renovation started in February and was completed in July. Poole says architect Norm Morin donated a large portion of his time, helping to keep costs low.

The goal of the facility, Poole says, "is to make a home for people so they can experience life and be a part of the community and live an interesting life."

Newlin says she enjoys watching TV with her roommates.

"I like to cook and we do different things like go out every so often," she says.

The biggest change for her, she says, is gaining her own space. "I don't mind being in my room," she says. "I like my privacy."

Roommate Yellott also enjoys the fact she doesn't have to share her apartment with a large number of people. "I like that it's quiet," she says.

Residents, Poole says, were allowed to help decorate. Choices, she says, are a big part of the residential program.

Each bedroom is painted with cheerful colors and decorated with personal items chosen by that room's resident. Each has a bed, a nightstand and a large dresser with a mirror. The window ledge of Newlin's room is filled with stuffed animals.

Being the youngest of the trio, Smith's room is reflective of her youth. Her walls are painted lavender. A colorful quilt decorates her bed and a stuffed cat sits at the foot of it.

There's another room Smith likes to be in - the kitchen. She boasts of making her specialty, a grilled cheese sandwich, which she later demonstrates.

She says her life is full. She's taking classes through College for Living including finance and a computer class. She's looking forward to a cook-out and picnic on Saturday at another house.

"And we were at City Park on Saturday," she says.

Meals are often eaten at the dining room table. Residents share meal time with two UCP staff members who support the residents during the day. There is another staff member who works overnight.

"We're like one big happy family," says Charlene Foster, house manager.

Foster says she and other staff members are at the apartment to assist the residents. "Some people with disabilities need a little extra help," she says.

Poole says for the residents it's sometimes hard at first because they are just meeting. Smith and Newlin, however, had already known each other prior to coming to the resident.

"They're becoming friends," Poole says.

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