Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

May 21, 2012

Living Center rises from the ashes, literally

Living Center rises from the ashes, literally

TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Childs is glad to be home.

Childs, 52, is one of five residents of the College Park Living Center whose home was destroyed by an electrical fire in November 2010.

After months of living in temporary housing, the women with special needs moved into a new facility built especially for them in March.

"The women are truly excited about being in their new, spacious, more up-to-date living facility," said Chuck Sutberry, executive director of BrickWays, the nonprofit housing corporation that operates College Park and four other residential centers.

Childs, who has lived in a BrickWays residence since she was 18, lost many personal belongings including a specialty bed that helps prevent bed sores.

She says, however, she feels lucky that no one was injured when the fire broke out three days before Thanksgiving.

"Luckily all of the women had already left for work," said Sherry Opper, house manager. "It might have been difficult to get everyone out if had been during the night."

While personal mementos are difficult to replace, Opper says the women are adjusting to their new home and enjoying decorating their rooms.

The home, with space for six residents and a live-in staff member, incorporates surfaces, fixtures and layouts with the residents' special needs in mind.

"They have a lot more room and more accessibility," Sutberry said.

The College Park reopening is just the latest in a number of new beginnings for the organization that has served area adults with a developmental disability and their families for more than four decades.

In 2011, the name — formerly the Grand Traverse Area Community Living Management Corp. — was changed to BrickWays to honor the group's late founder, Mary Jean Brick.

Earlier this year, the organization's fund development arm, Grand Traverse Community Living Foundation, adopted the new name BrickWays Foundation. The Foundation provided a loan to help facilitate the rebuilding of College Park.

BrickWays currently provides housing to 51 residents in five unique living environments in the Traverse City area.

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