Honoring 30 years of adult day services at the Gathering Place

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BRATTLEBORO — The Gathering Place opened for adult day services in town 30 years ago and last year, the nonprofit launched a second site in West Dover.

"We started as six families," said Maggie Lewis, executive director. "Now, it's over 75 families that we serve."

Open house events to celebrate the anniversary are being held 4 to 6 p.m. May 16 in West Dover and 5 to 7 p.m. May 30, in Brattleboro. Both centers serve local residents.

"We'll also be celebrating our new website, our new logo and again serving Windham County for 30 years," Lewis said.

"Everyone is welcome."

Lewis noted there is still room in both the home care and adult day service programs. Her group serves adults 18 and older.

Participants are elderly, or have chronic illnesses or disabilities. They are provided meals, activities and entertainment, as well as clinical oversight if needed.

"Ultimately, the goal is to help people live to their highest potential of independence in an environment that is supportive, where they can build community and friendships," said Lewis.

The cost is $17 per hour for adult day services at the centers and about $25 an hour for home care. Transportation is available.

Lewis said she does not think many people know that Medicaid insurance will pay for adult day services. Grants also are available through different organizations.

During the open house events, visitors will be introduced to the staff and their scope of work. Tours also will be given.

"They're very homey and welcoming," Lewis said, of the two buildings. "I think it would be great for people to come to the open houses so they know that it's more of a community joining friends together, supporting not only the people who participate but their family members."

A lively game of bingo could be heard from outside the office where Lewis was being interviewed.

"For some, it's a less expensive alternative to assisted living or nursing home care and it helps families with respite time," she continued. "And we're hoping to collaborate with the school systems for young adults who are graduating, who have disabilities and this is a good option to come during the day to meet new friends and be active."

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Lewis shared a list of "major milestones" for The Gathering Place she found in a closet: In July 1987, the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont received state funds to conduct a feasibility study and plan for starting an adult day service program for the Brattleboro area. Beth Spicer was hired to be program director and later became the first executive director. A 12-member advisory council formed before the center opened in 1989 with six families.

In 1989, the center served 16 families. The following year, the number hit 26.

In 1991, the center served 37 families. The following year, the number hit 45 and the center started exploring how to provide more personal care to participants.

In 1993, discussion about opening a satellite program began. That year, non-profit status was secured.

"I'm very happy to see it grow and expand, and now have a satellite program out in Dover," said Spicer, who works for the state as a public guardian of individuals with developmental disabilities and elders with cognitive impairment. "I'm in and out of there a lot. I work with people there. It's a very exciting place to be and I'm thrilled that things have done so well there. It's a much needed program in the area."

Last year was "exciting and transformative," wrote Andrew Loney, president of The Gathering Place Board of Directors, in a letter to supporters. Lewis had been named to succeed Mary Fredette as the new executive director and the West Dover location opened.

"The new site gives us expanded capacity to serve our aging community, as well as adults with disabilities, and their families," Loney wrote. "In 2019, we will push to build our census through community collaboration and local advertising."

Loney said this year's priority is increasing fundraising efforts via community outreach, grants and events.

Upcoming fundraisers include Dining for a Cause at the 99 Restaurant and Pub at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 4, and Community Pint Night at the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery every Wednesday this month, May and June.

The West Dover site will continue its concert series with Jeff Campbell performing Wednesday, April. To RSVP, call 802-254-6559. Concerts will be held every fourth Wednesday.

Lewis started as executive director at the end of last April. She is proud of the work her group is doing.

"We're just awesome; we really are," she said. "When I first started, I knew how good The Gathering Place was and it continues to be a fabulous place. I love the volunteers, participants and communities. We're just fortunate."

A glowing report also came last month in a letter from the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Adult Services Division.

"I found many areas of excellence at The Gathering Place and found the center in compliance with the Vermont Adult Day Standards," wrote Stuart Senghas, quality and program participant specialist for the department. "Feedback from family members and community members is very positive ... I enjoyed meeting the individual participants and want to highlight the staff's dedication and hard work meeting the needs of the individuals you serve."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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