Friday April 19, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- About a year ago a group of people with family members who have disabilities began talking about starting a drop-in center.

Following similar models in Keene, N.H., and Woodstock, the group wanted to have a public space where people with disabilities could meet to take part in workshops and classes, or just congregate during the day.

From the beginning, Julie Tamler said, the project seemed daunting, but at the same time there was so much enthusiasm and support that Tamler expected to be able to find the right space in the Brattleboro area.

There is still work to do, she said, but the Brattleboro Center for People with Disabilities seems to inch forward every day.

Organizers are in discussion with officials at the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Tamler thinks if everything falls into place the center could be open within a year.

"We’re moving ahead in every direction and looking at every idea that comes to us," Tamler said. "People are really excited about this."

About 25 people have been involved with the work so far.

The group considered working with another organization, but decided to start its own nonprofit.

Tamler said the group expects to work closely with groups like Health Care and Rehabilitation Services and Families First as it opens the center and develops programs.

As part of their ongoing work the group is looking for a new name, and has put a call out for suggestions. Tamler said it is a way of building momentum for the group, but also a chance for more people to be involved in what she hopes the entire region will view as an inclusive community resource.

"We want a catchy name that expresses what we are all about, and think people out there might be able to come up with something," Tamler said.

Most of the people in the group do have a family member with a disability, though Tamler stresses that anyone is encouraged to get involved.

She said organizers are making it easy for anyone to be involved, especially with the understanding that people with disabilities can not always get out as easily as others.

"We are open and inclusive. That’s been our main focus from the start," she said. "And when the center is open that is how we are going to run the center."

Organizers have visited the centers in Keene and Woodstock and Tamler said the staff in those centers have been very helpful and supportive as the Brattleboro works to develop its center.

"We want everyone to feel welcome here. We want this center to be open to everybody," she said. "Every step we take feels like a big step."

For more information, or to suggest a name for the group go to Brattleboro Center for People with Disabilities on Facebook, call Tamler at 802-387-5285, or e-mail suggestions to 2013bcd@gmail.com.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.