Local Company Offers To House Developmental Center

SNOW HILL – Only a week after the Worcester County Developmental Center (WCDC) building burned down, the organization has regrouped, found new space, and been pledged $10,000 in matching funds from a local non-profit.

Director June Walker and staff wasted no time after last Tuesday’s disastrous fire, finding alternative space within a day due the generosity of Royal Plus, Inc.

“It was Royal Plus that came to me and said we’ve got a facility. Let’s look to see if we can’t help to get you open,” Walker said. “[Delegate] Jim Mathias actually talked to us before the fire was put out.”

Royal Plus Marketing Representative Tracy Lynch said members of the company were on hand at the fire looking for other ways to help the Developmental Center.

“We offered to them our building in Snow Hill,” Lynch said. “It’s huge.”

Walker and staff surveyed that building, a warehouse next to the grocery store on Market Street in Snow Hill on Wednesday morning. A state inspector also looked the place over.

“We were having a restaurant move in there this winter but [Royal Plus} owner Mark Odachowski said forget about it, this is more important,” Lynch said.

Some improvements will be necessary before the state will license the space for the Developmental Center’s day program, ranging from changes for handicapped accessibility to the addition of interior walls, a kitchen, lunch room and offices.

“The renovations are under way. We believe that we will be moving in there in not too long a time,” Walker said.

Tom Morse, regional director of renovation for Royal Plus, said he expects the Developmental Center to restart the day program in the interim building in four to six weeks.

Morse said he could not discuss who is paying for the renovations, or whether the warehouse will be leased to WCDC or simply loaned.

Royal Plus has also provided generators to provide electricity for the WCDC staff, which is currently working out of an office trailer. The company’s marketing department has had a sign made up, directing people from the site of the burned building to the trailer and also plans to provide a sign to redirect traffic to the interim location in Snow Hill when it is ready.

Until that facility is available for every day use, the WCDC day program will be mostly suspended.

“We’re going to keep getting everyone together once a week just to keep in touch,” Walker said.

The administrative branch of the center is in good shape and the residential programs continue unchanged, with day program staff switched to those facilities for now. All staff remains employed, Walker said.

Clients working at jobs outside the center, such as the employment program at Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic school cafeteria, are also continuing uninterrupted.

“Our finance department is up and running. We were able to send out client payroll checks on Saturday,” said Walker.

Two psychological associates are working with any clients who are in emotional distress over the fire. Walker said she and staff are hoping that clients will not suffer setbacks from the interruption in services.

One local philanthropic organization also acted swiftly to set up help for the Developmental Center last week. The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore (CFES) decided, two days after the fire, to offer $10,000 in matching funds to the center, hoping to raise at least $20,000 total.

“We’ve given some grants to the Developmental Center over the years and are really familiar with their work and how important it is to the community,” said CFES Director Spicer Bell. “We just wanted to reach out to the organization to help them bounce back after the fire.”

The foundation has received several donations for the Developmental Center in the last several days. All funds will be passed directly to the center. “We’re donating any administrative support necessary,” said Bell.

Plans for a new building for WCDC have been underway for some time, since the organization had outgrown its Newark building well before the fire. The new building is a few years away, however.

Funds donated to the center will be used for current needs, but once those are met, remaining monies will be rolled over into the nascent capital campaign for the new building.          

“We just appreciate every contribution and helping us help the center,” Bell said.

Walker said, “We’re touched by the community support we’ve received. We are far from done. We are down but not out. We are going to come out of this stronger.”