By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 9, 2012 1:42PM
Opportunity Enterprises recently held a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a building at Lake Eliza that will host OE programs and include apartments. | Photo Provided
For more on Opportunity Enterprises, go to www.oppent.org.
Updated: August 15, 2012 10:22AM
VALPARAISO – With applause, cheers and even a few tears, past and present leaders of Opportunity Enterprises and the agency’s supporters came together Aug. 9 to mark a new phase in OE’s expanding commitment to the community.
With white hard hats and golden shovels, folks got the chance to participate in the groundbreaking for an addition to OE’s Lakeside property in Lake Eliza, which includes more program space as well as handicap accessible apartments for OE consumers and community members who need them.
“This is a major event for OE,” said retired chief executive officer and president Gary Mitchell, who returned from his Tennessee home to take part in the groundbreaking, which he added is symbolic of the agency’s past, present and future. “And to me, that’s what this day is all about.”
Valparaiso-based OE, which provides a wide array of services to more than 1,100 people with disabilities in the region, acquired the 128-acre Lakeside property five years ago.
The existing building was renovated in 2008. The Renewed Horizons Adult Day Center and Enriching Possibilities programs moved to the site and the building quickly reached its 125-person capacity, said Ellen DeMartinis, the agency’s interim president and CEO.
The agency raised more than $3 million to fund a 26,000-square-foot addition to the existing building, which will bring its capacity to more than 350 consumers a day.
Plans also call for an eight-unit apartment building, which can house 24 people and will be completely accessible for people with disabilities. The future will bring at least three more apartment buildings, DeMartinis said.
Construction of the addition and the first apartment will take up to a year.
The project, DeMartinis said, was not without its stumbling blocks and struggles, including a lengthy permitting process for the project, which is on a 50-acre lake.
“Today none of that matters,” DeMartinis said, fighting back tears, “because today we’re here.”
Board chairwoman Lee Lane shared her visit to one of OE’s workshops last week, which included consumers and staff breaking into the “Hokey Pokey.”
“Today is really the culmination of what it means to continue on with that vision, of making meaningful opportunities for people with disabilities,” she said, paraphrasing the song’s popular refrain, “and that’s what OE is all about.”