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Thursday, May 5, 2016

A blueprint for Castle accessibility

Monday, October 3, 2005

September has been an exciting month for Faith, Hope & Charity. Our accomplishments this month not only affect us and the families and children we serve, but have implications for persons with disabilities in Storm Lake, in Northwest Iowa and the entire country.

For the past several months, I have been meeting with representatives of Genesis Development, the Storm Lake Chamber of Commerce, the City of Storm Lake and Santa's Castle to discuss the challenge of accessibility at Santa's Castle. We recently reviewed drawings and blueprints of a proposal developed by architect Glen Huntington to locate an elevator on the south side of the building. These drawings and blueprints are available at the Chamber of Commerce for public viewing. The cost estimate for the project is $200,000.

On Monday, Sept. 19 Maureen Wilson of Senator Harkin's staff came to Storm Lake to view the project and tour the Castle. She was impressed with the facility and the plans, and we have since heard from Senator Harkin who has given us some public and private grant resources to research. We are excited by this help, be we know that some, perhaps even a major part of the funding, will need to come from donations. During the castle season this year, the drawings and blueprints will be on display. this is our opportunity to educate everyone about this needed change and to have individuals and businesses consider how they may help. Look for this display or stop by the chamber to see our proposal.

This past spring, FHC was approached by a family who gave us information about a program called "Lose the training wheels". This program was developed several years ago to help persons with disabilities learn how to ride a bicycle. The cost of the program includes the equipment, training of our local teachers and bringing the national coordinators to Storm Lake. The number of participants are limited only by the size of the facility, the time of year and of course, the budget. I am happy to announce that two of these three have been accomplished already. Through the assistance of the local Monsanto office, we have received a $10,000 Monsanto grant which should cover our costs. We have set dates with the "Lose the training wheels" personnel, which are July 31 through August 4. We are working with Buena Vista University to help us secure a facility and volunteers.

While we hope to use this program for several children who are served by Faith, Hope & Charity, we also will open it to other local children who live in Storm Lake or other parts of Northwest Iowa. As more details are set, we will get the information to all who may benefit.

On September 22 and 23, Jeni Grotjohn, FHC Assistant Executive Director/Training Coordinator; Susan Jentz, FHC Board member and parent; and I attended the Alliance for Full Participation Summit in Washington, D.C. The Summit was the culmination of a three-year planning process by 11 National organizations who serve person with disabilities. 2,400 persons attended the summit, with a large percentage of them being person with disabilities, their families and staff supporters, making it one of the largest (if not the largest) groups ever assembled in Washington to discuss disability issues. The excitement generated was overwhelming, and I am certain that this is the beginning of a new age of full participation for persons with disabilities. The coordinators of the event met on Saturday, Sept. 24 to continue the process based upon the input received at the conference. I will report more on this historic beginning in the week to come.

Finally, I know that Washington, D.C., often gets a bad rap as a city with a high crime rate, and a city where people are in such a hurry that they don't have the time to help those in need. Let me tell you a story that proves just the opposite. On Saturday, Sept. 24 Jeni, Susan and I chose to walk the four blocks to the Dupont Circle Metro station to take the train to Reagan National Airport. The Metro system in Washington is one of the best bargains in the city. We chose to ride the train at the cost of $1.85 each vs. taking a $30 cab ride. When we got to the station where ewe were to change trains, we found ourselves in a sea of thousands of people in town for the war protest. We were happy to discover that most of them were going the opposite way, and we soon boarded the train which was supposed to take us to the airport. As we approached the Pentagon, the voice on the speaker informed us that the track was being worked on and that the train would not go past Pentagon City. That's when Robin took over. We had been chatting with Robin and found that she was a civilian employee at the Pentagon who was working on a degree in Sociology. She told us to follow her, as she was sure that the Metro staff would have other arrangements to get us to the airport. After finding out that they could not help us, Robin led us to the escalator which should take us to the street to find a cab. We were now 50 minutes from taking off but a few miles from the airport. Robin led us to another escalator and out to the street. After several attempts to find a cab, another volunteer, a paralegal from the Department of Justice whose name I unfortunately did not get, stepped up and told Robin she would help as she lived in the area. After several minutes, we were finally able to cram into a cab. After checking luggage, passing through security and walking to our gate, we arrived just as they called us to board. My only regret is that I didn't get Robin's last name. I will try to get a thank you to her, but even Senator Harkin's office thought that getting her last name would be impossible.

Isn't it nice to know that there are Angels everywhere!

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