By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT MITCHELL - Fifty years ago, two Northern Kentucky couples who had children with mental and physical disabilities started a program to help kids like theirs grow into fulfilled, productive adults.
Today that program - Redwood School & Rehabilitation Center - has outgrown its space and is planning a much-needed expansion, supporters say.
The center offers 22 vocational, therapeutic and educational programs for ages ranging from preschool to senior citizens. While other organizations serve people with disabilities, supporters say only Redwood serves medically fragile people facing the most severe challenges.
On Tuesday, the Fort Mitchell Board of Adjustment will consider an expansion that would enable Redwood to nearly double its size and serve a waiting list of more than 200 clients whose needs can't be met by other agencies.
Area planners have recommended approval.
Redwood supporters have raised about 70 percent of the money needed for the $4.5 million expansion. The agency plans to appeal to its supporters next month for the balance.
"It's been an urgent and unmet need for some time,'' development coordinator Tracy Wells said of Redwood's space crunch. "No other agency offers the full spectrum of services that Redwood does.''
The addition to Redwood's 43,000-square-foot building on Orphanage Road would include a 5,000-square-foot visitor reception area at the front of the existing structure. It also would provide a 34,000-square-foot addition to the rear that would house day care, classrooms, vocational training, business offices and storage.
Parking also would increase, and Redwood would add 35 employees during the next two years to meet needs of children and adults who are waiting to get into its programs.
"We're operating in a building designed to serve 150 people,'' Wells said. "Last year, we served 603.''
To accommodate clients, Redwood has moved some of its programs, including its summer youth program for school-aged children with physical and mental disabilities, off site, she said.
Redwood got its start in 1953 when Al and Dorothy Wood and Bill and Sue Reder started a class in the basement of a Latonia church.
Redwood receives about half of its funding from the state and federal government, Wells said. About 20 percent comes from United Way, and the rest is from fund-raising and program fees.
If everything goes as planned, Redwood supporters plan to begin construction in May, Wells said. It should take about a year.
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