1-1-06 Computer-skills program opens new world to mentally disabled

11-11-06 Blessing House Ball

12-6-06 Guadalupe House for sale

NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 3-20-03, By CAROLYN STEIGMAN, Staff Writer

``Curiosity Shop locks up

AVON -- For 32 years, the Curiosity Shop, 36145 Detroit Road, has been a fixture in the community.

Last week, it quietly closed its doors and went out of business.

Our Lady of the Wayside leased the resale shop for a minimal amount from the state for 30 years and bought it in 2000. It was intended to be a fundraising venture to support the organization's nonprofit services to the community.

Per the lease agreement, the state transferred total responsibility for maintenance of the property to Our Lady of the Wayside.

"We've been putting support into the store in the hope the growth would increase revenue to keep it open," said Terry Davis, Our Lady of the Wayside director. "That hasn't occurred. We had to put money into paid employees. Our volunteers have dropped off."

The final blow to the shop came from Gov. Bob Taft's new budget, which calls for deep cuts in Medicaid spending. This will impact the many disabled individuals living in the organization's group homes.

"We're continuing to try to beat the bushes (for funding), but everything's down. Our niche is our homes, and we're going to try and preserve the homes," Davis said ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 1-1-06, by Scott Stephens, Plain Dealer Reporter

``Computer-skills program opens new world to mentally disabled

AVON -- ... The good-natured banter is all part of Tim Caskey's 4-year-old Computer Skills Development Program at Our Lady of the Wayside, a nonprofit agency that provides services to more than 180 people with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

The program teaches mentally disabled adults basic skills, including writing and sending e-mail and navigating the Internet. Touch-screen technology, jumbo mouses and extra-big keyboards help even the most severely disabled claim a small piece of the information superhighway.

More than two dozen adults from across Northeast Ohio travel to Avon on Tuesday or Thursday nights or Saturday afternoons to work on their typing skills, make holiday decorations for their group homes, correspond with friends and family or visit their favorite celebrity Web site.

The class represents a crack through which they can temporarily escape their disabilities and see the light of the outside world.

"We have a waiting list," says Caskey, a special-education teacher by day at Cleveland's Audubon School and the sole instructor of the computer-skills program since its inception. "It's important to them that their housemates know that they're in this class. It's got a certain cachet to it."

No one can recall a program exactly like Caskey's class - in Ohio or anywhere else.

"We're not aware of anything like it," says Terry Davis, president and chief executive of Our Lady of the Wayside. "It's unique, and we've been very pleased with the results." ...

With donations from the Stocker and Nordson Corp. foundations, the program has maintained and slowly grown. There are now 28 students.

The genesis of the program is as unusual as the class itself. Five years ago, Caskey was moonlighting at a Micro Center computer store, teaching a free beginners class that the retailer offered to its customers.

A man in the class looked as if he would rather be anywhere else in the world. Caskey figured the guy's wife forced him to attend.

"The guy was just bored to tears," Caskey recalls. "I thought, 'Man, I'm losing this guy.' "

But Caskey hadn't lost the guy, who turned out to be Dick Griffin, then a member of Our Lady of the Wayside's board of directors. Griffin envisioned a similar kind of class for the agency's clients, and he asked Caskey to come to his office the next week and talk.

Six months later, Caskey launched the program as a six-week pilot. It was an immediate success and has continued ever since ...

Skill levels vary dramatically. For some, printing out a snowman or wreath for a wall decoration is a major accomplishment. For others, there are few boundaries.

One student, for instance, has apparently memorized a Web site that features home listings. Ask him what a three-bedroom, two-bath, 2,220-square-foot home on West 227th Street goes for, and he will give you a remarkably accurate quote - depending on whether it has air conditioning and a finished basement.

"You get a whole new appreciation of how this little computer works," says Caskey, pointing to his head.

What the class means in the lives of his students - and their families - has startled Caskey from time to time. Several years ago, a student named Reed died. At his funeral, Caskey was approached by Reed's younger sister, a Denver school teacher. She hugged him.

"He would e-mail his sister, and she'd e-mail him back," Caskey says. "She told me she found out more about her brother through those e-mails than she had ever known before."

Unfortunately, the woman had lost her brother's e-mails. But Caskey was able to retrieve the files, print them and send them to her. He received a gracious thank-you note in return.

"It's gratifying," Caskey says. "They are exceptional people. I've learned far more from them than I could ever teach these guys."''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 10-18-06, by Rebecca Turman

``Blessing House ball is rocking back with formal affair

AVON -- The Blessing House is having a ball the second annual "Rock-A-Bye Ball," that is. The formal event, which has a "When You Wish Upon a Star" theme, will be held Nov. 11 [2006] at Tom's Country Place, 3442 Stoney Ridge Road, Avon. Starting at 6 p.m., the evening will feature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, live and silent auctions. Guests can also "Rock" the night away with musical entertainment provided by the Special Event band. At $100 per ticket, all proceeds from the black tie-optional ball will benefit the Blessing House, located in Lorain.

The Blessing House was started by Sister Mary Berigan, who is now the director, according to co-chair of the ball, Lynette Zeman, of Avon. "She realized that there were families in Lorain County that had nowhere to turn in times of crisis," Zeman said. "They (parents) would actually leave children unattended at home because they didn't want to leave them with strangers."

Berigan had worked for Voices for Children, where she actually had to take kids from their families, Zeman said. "She thought, `if there was just a place for parents to go for help,'" Zeman said of Berigan. Since April of 2005, Berigan has been providing that "place" via the Blessing House, a haven for children in Lorain County whose families need a place for them to stay in times of emergency. "Not everyone has a parent down the street who can watch their kids when they need help," Zeman said.

Blessing House is open 24 hours a day all year long, even on holidays. In fact, on Christmas Day last year, Zeman said two or three kids had to stay at the house because of circumstances at home. "It (Blessing House) does great things and families are touched by it every day," Zeman said.

Last year's Rock-A-Bye Ball raised nearly $34,000 for the Blessing House. The goal this year is to raise $40,000, according to Zeman. This year's ball will feature many highlights, according to Zeman, including honoring Avon student Kirsten Miller for her service to the Blessing House.

Items to be auctioned off at the event include airfare up to $500 and a one-week stay at a condo in Vail, Colo., a wine dinner for 12 at Nemo Grill, a fighter pilot for a day prize, restaurant gift certificates, fine jewelry, golf packages, spa packages, Indians tickets and Cavs tickets. Special featured items are the six children's rocking chairs painted by local artists with themes such as Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, according to Zeman.

A $3,000 Rob Levit Jeweler's diamond dinner ring will also be given away in a "Champagne Raffle." Guests can purchase a $20 champagne glass for a chance to win the ring.

Reservations to the Rock-A-Bye Ball can be made by calling the Blessing House at (440) 240-1851 or Zeman at (440) 864-7516. Reservations must be made by Oct. 28. For more information on the Blessing House, visit the Web site at .''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 12-6-06, By Rebecca Turman

``Our Lady of the Wayside's Guadalupe House for sale

AVON -- The Guadalupe House of Our Lady of the Wayside at 38023 Colorado Ave. in Avon is now on the market. After years of being a haven and home for individuals with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, the home is for sale and the remaining 20 or so residents living there will be relocating to homes within Lorain County or Cuyahoga County throughout the next several years, President/CEO of Our Lady of the Wayside Terry Davis said.

For Our Lady of the Wayside, the move is part of a four-year plan that's been put into place, due to the growth of the organization. As of today, 19 individuals have already moved from the Guadalupe home to either two of the homes in Sheffield Village or the one in Oberlin, according to Davis. Two lots have been purchased on Bagley Road in North Ridgeville, another home will be developed in Olmsted Township, and the organization is looking to build a home on its land in Elyria Township.

"It's a quality of life issue for us," Davis said of the moves. "The opportunities for individuals in the Guadalupe facility are limited," he said adding that with 42 residents, there were a lot of space and privacy issues.

"Financially and economically, it would be better to stay in the Guadalupe House, but it's certainly not better from a quality of life stand point, and that's what we are about," Davis said. "Their lives have become so much better."

Each of the homes that residents were already relocated to specifically cater to the needs of each individual, according to Davis. "The other homes will be tailor-made to meet the needs of those remaining at Guad now," Davis said, adding that they would be specially equipped.

Each of the homes that were built (and will be built) meets all state and federal guidelines and cost about $650-700,000 each, Davis said. "The fourth home is currently being developed and the fifth, sixth and seventh home will be done between now and the middle of '08," Davis said, if all goes as planned.

However, before the organization can begin working on five, six and seven, Davis said about $1.5 million dollars will need to be raised. "Once Guad is phased out, our office would still be in Avon," Davis said. "Right now, it's not our intention to phase out the office."

While moving into different homes throughout the area will be a big change for the residents, one thing will stay constant for them. "All of our staff on board will be going with them," Davis said, adding that a handful of people may be hired to join the current employees.

For more information on Our Lady of the Wayside or to find out how to make a donation, visit the Web site at or call 934-6007.''

More Information:

Eulogy of Peter Maurin, by Dorothy Day

Colette Marie Infant Home

Dorothy H. Gauchat, co-founder of Our Lady of the Wayside Home

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