BRATTLEBORO -- It's been about 15 months since Julie Tamler first started to talk about opening a drop-in center in Brattleboro for people with disabilities.
Tamler's son, Reuben Tamler-Schottland, 17, has a disability and Tamler had visited drop-in centers in other communities that offered programs to people with disabilities and their friends and families.
She scheduled a few meetings to talk about her plan and over the past year support for the idea has grown.
Earlier this month The Inclusion Center opened its doors for the first time, and supporters are already looking to extend its services.
"It's been a huge success," Tamler said. "Everybody has been so excited to be there. It's been really beautiful to watch it take off."
The Inclusion Center, for now, is open Friday afternoons, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Gibson Aiken Senior Center. All of the programs are free and anyone is welcome to drop by for the full three hours, or a portion of the time the center is open.
The biggest obstacle to starting the center, Tamler said, has been trying to find a location. The senior center had an opening on Friday afternoons and the Inclusion Center is paying $40 to rent the space for the three hours. But Tamler said the enthusiasm so far, and the level of interest, have encouraged supporters to continue looking for a location that will allow them to open more than one afternoon a week.
"The best thing about it has been watching the participants lead the activities," Tamler said. "We've had young people and seniors, and people with a wide range of disabilities. We want this to be an inclusion center for everybody, and that's exactly what is turning out to be."
Tamler helped start the discussions about the Inclusion Center last year, but she said she burned out a little, and as the organization solidified she stepped back a little.
Earlier this year the group formed a non-profit organization and Fred Breunig was elected board president.
"We thought it made sense to move in baby steps," he said. "We wanted to show people we were serious, and hopefully enthusiasm will grow as more people come out and help."
The center has been raising some money through donations and organizers of last year's Buddy Walk committed all of the money that was raised that day toward the Inclusion Center.
Breunig said volunteers have been taking care of all of the organizing and preparations at the Gibson Aiken Center.
As talks were going on organizers were getting frustrated not being able to find the ideal location and he said it was a big boost to find the Gibson Aiken Center and see the level of enthusiasm that has already been raised.
He said the group is going to keep looking for an alternative location that is centrally located and which allows the Inclusion Center to open at least a few days a week.
But for now, he said, the center is open.
"It was so overwhelming to find a space, and this might not be quite how we envisioned it, but it's a start," Breunig said. "We had our grand opening, and it might not have been quite so grand, but we are open. Who knows where we'll end up, but it's a start."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.