Thrift store would help build group home for special needs adults, organizers say

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Thrift store would help build group home for special needs adults, organizers say

Published Wednesday, March 2, 2011   |  439 Words  |  
  • A thrift store whose profits would benefit a proposed housing project for special-needs adults is to open in mid-April in Okatie.

    Heart to Home Thrift, at 2797 North Okatie Highway, is the latest endeavor of the nonprofit Osprey Village Inc. The organization wants to build the first group homes in southern Beaufort County for intellectually challenged and developmentally disabled adults.

    After hosting dances and dinners to raise money, the group's board of directors decided a thrift store would help generate continuous operating funds for the project, board vice president Lee Bowen said.

    Osprey Village hasn't started a capital campaign yet, development and marketing director David Green said.

    The idea for the homes comes from local families who met through the Hilton Head Island-based Programs for Exceptional People, in which their special-needs adult children are enrolled. They worried about who would care for their children as they got older, Green said.

    So they decided to build a special-needs community themselves. They formed a nonprofit organization in April 2009, and in November of that year, they were awarded a $25,000 research grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to study models of similar projects around the country.

    The group wants to start with two homes before growing into a full community. The thrift store would help pay for the services provided at the homes, Green said.

    Beaufort County Board of Disability and Special Needs executive director Mitzi Wagner estimates the cost for staff, utilities and food at about $280,000 a year.

    Osprey Village seeks donations and volunteers for the store, whose grand opening will be April 14 through 16. The organization also plans to raise $25,000 for the store's startup costs, Green said.

    On Saturday, volunteer painters and carpenters will converge on the 3,000-square-foot space to paint walls and build shelves and benches.

    Bowen said the store also would offer job training for special-needs adults.

    "This is a place where these young adults ... can gain real life experience in a work setting," Bowen said. "We're hoping we can team them with senior citizens so we'll have two elements: the retired community working with the disabled community."

    Wagner, whose department serves about 600 special-needs adults through a variety of group homes, said her department is working with Osprey Village to help make its project a reality, but no state funding is available for the project.

    "If anybody can make it happen, I think they can -- they're bright and creative people," Wagner said. "But it's going to be a tough road."