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Nonprofit getting office upgrade

Sun., July 6, 2008

Fifteen employees of a Spokane nonprofit agency that helps disabled people learned Wednesday that they had less than two weeks to move out of their building, and they couldn’t be happier.

On July 14, the employees of Coalition of Responsible Disabled will move out for the week. When they move back in it will be – they hope – into dramatically renovated offices that should be more accessible for people with disabilities – both the employees and the people they serve.

CORD is the latest in a string of Spokane and Idaho social service agencies to receive construction makeovers from the Extreme Team, run by KXLY-TV’s Mark Peterson and Sullivan Homes Idaho. Borrowing an idea from ABC TV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the team parachutes in for a few days to renovate residences and nonprofit agencies, using donated labor and materials.

Since the project began two years ago, the team has renovated offices for Kinderhaven and Panhandle Special Needs in Sandpoint and the American Red Cross, Girl Scouts and Truth Ministries in Spokane, along with numerous residences.

“This is the greatest thing that’s happened to CORD in the 10 years I’ve been around,” said Ed Kennedy, who can hardly rotate his wheelchair in the cramped office where he helps people with disabilities find housing. “It’s not a bright or cheery place to be. Whatever can happen to change that … it can only get better.”

CORD Executive Director Linda McClain would like to see the 2,500-square-foot single-story building at 612 N. Maple St. renovated to include more work space and more private spaces to meet with clients. She’d like a more secure entry, separated from the offices by a wall and buzzer system. She’d like a break room with space for employees to eat their lunches.

CORD offers intensive case management to about 350 people annually, for up to 10 hours per week. The office fielded 4,000 calls for assistance last year and helped 150 people every month with their finances. CORD serves people with disabilities throughout the Spokane area, assisting them with housing, skills training, advocacy and peer support.

KXLY’s Peterson said helping social service agencies “gives us more bang for the buck. The message is to pay it forward. When you help out an agency, they’re paying it forward every day.”

An Extreme Team makeover of the American Red Cross building at 315 W. Nora Ave. renovated the entire lobby area. It added a safe area where children can play while caseworkers help their parents after disasters such as fires or flooding. It also created more private space to work with clients, said Dawn Lindblom, executive director of the chapter. The team installed new tile, walls and carpet.

“It’s unbelievable. Our building is over 30 years old and it was the first time there had been any renovation done. It just looks so wonderful,” Lindblom said. “What’s so neat about that … is that for us as an organization, when we look at resources, the resources we have are able to be used for serving individuals and families. Anything you can do to funnel your money into services, that’s great. It sure made a big difference for us.”


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