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It's time to move: ABLE sets campaign goal of $500,000 to complete construction of 4 group homes

One of the ABLE group homes is shown at 1813 Third Ave. E.1 / 2
Tyler Gress, seated, along with his mother Rhonda Weber and sister, Stacie Gress, in back, tour his new bedroom in an ABLE group home. The tour was given by house manager, Danielle Salo, at right.2 / 2

The newly constructed ABLE Inc. group home in northeast dickinson was a beehive of activity on March 8. The staff moved furniture, pots, pans, dishes and groceries into the home while the residents took along their clothing, entertainment devices and pictures.

For more than 30 years, ABLE Inc., has been leasing four homes in Dickinson to provide support services for 24 men and women with physical and intellectual disabilities. When ABLE learned the leases would not be renewed after 2017, the administrative team decided the best option was to build four replacement homes.

“In 1985, I was privileged to welcome people in their new homes in Dickinson,” executive director Mary Anderson said. “Thirty-two years later, I get to do the same thing by welcoming some of the same people into brand new homes again.”

Two of the homes are currently occupied and the last two homes will be completed by either June or July.

The projected cost of the four homes is $8 million -- $5.5 million funded through long-term financing and reimbursed by the state through services to clients, and another $2.5 million through private donations, grants and pledges.

ABLE has met 80 percent of the $2.5 million goal, but is reaching out to the public to finish the campaign -- $500,000 is needed before the end of 2017, Anderson said.

Prior to 1985, people with intellectual disabilities lived in the Grafton State School in eastern North Dakota. In 1984, the ARC won a lawsuit against the state of North Dakota declaring the state’s method of serving people with intellectual disabilities violated their constitutional rights. People were going home.

ABLE Inc. provides supports to about 100 men and women in Dickinson, Hettinger and Bowman. It employs more than 180 employees who provide 24/7 care in five group homes, three apartment complexes and other living arrangements. A team of support professionals supports more than 60 people employed at “Made to Order Store:” in Bowman, recycling in Bowman, a thrift center in Dickinson and crews in businesses in Dickinson and bowman.

Tyler’s story

Tyler Gress was among the six residents who moved on Wednesday.

As a Dickinson High School senior, he sustained a traumatic brain injury i9n a motorcross accident Aug. 24, 2008.

“He can’t walk or speak and in a wheelchair pretty much all of time,” said his mother Rhonda Weber.

He was living in a rehabilitation center at Mandan, but the family wanted him closer to home. Tyler moved into an ABLE group home in March of 2010, but his room was tiny.

Today, he has a room large enough to store his medical devices, a recliner and a bed to support his 6-foot 2-inch frame. The staff also has adequate space to provide daily supports.

“This is so much nicer,” Weber said. “It’s safer for the staff who need the extra room to work with him. He needs a ceiling track lift to help him in and out of bed. He will have a whirlpool bath-- something he’s never had before to help relax his muscles.”

Rhonda decorated the walls with art of Tyler’s beloved motorcycles and pictures of family and friends.

“If he needs quiet time and downtime -- he can retreat to his room to watch TV or listen to music,” she said.

She praised Tyler’s staff who provide for his hygiene needs, do the cooking and cleaning and organize the leisure activities.

“It’s a family -- it’s a home that gives me peace of mind,” she said. “Tyler is always treated with dignity, love and respect. ABLE is an amazing place that I didn’t know about before Tyler’s accident.”

Group home

Each of the homes has 5,000  square feet of living space and a heated garage to allow for wheelchair-accessible vans. Each home has a basement which is accessible through a stairway, an elevator and an outdoor exit. An additional one-bedroom apartment is located off the lower level.

“We expect to be in this building for 50 years,and don’t know exactly how all this space will be used -- we have to look way into  the future,” Anderson said. “The reason for the basement is number one, we were worried about the weather -- it will provide shelter during storms, and even more importantly, it’s a place where families can play games and visit privately.”

The lower level provides a large room for recreational purposes, a meeting room for the staff, storage and another large bathroom.

Each room has six private rooms on the main floor --with space for a full-sized bed, dresser, recliner, sink and storage. The shared bathrooms come with showers and tubs for therapeutic bathing. New furniture is also part of the building plan.

There is off-street parking for employees, fences for privacy, soundproofing for noise and landscaping that enhances the neighborhood.

With six residents and three support staff in each home, the staff saw the need for two refrigerators, two dishwashers and two ovens.

“With only one, it would run constantly,:” Anderson said. “We rarely do dishwashing in the sink. State law requires we sanitize the dishes.”

The dining area has two tables -- each with a different height.

“Some people need a higher table to get their wheelchair under and others need a lower table,” she said.

“The wash room includes two washers and two dryers. There’s a home ventilation system, fire and security systems, offices and a bathroom for the staff.

“We allowed room for growth, and there was the privacy factor. Everybody has to live together,”she said.

Anderson recently gave a tour of a home to Stark Development Corp. executive vice president Ryan Jilek and associate vice president Danita Tysver. Stark Development awarded a $96,000 grant toward construction.

“I was extremely impressed with the project--  to see attention to detail was exceptional by Mary, her staff and contractors,” Jilek said. “I think it shows testiment to their involvement and how passionate they are for the people in the community -- they make their needs met in an extremely impressive fashion.”


Marketing manage Matthew Heinen has been updating ABLE”s website and Facebook page.

“I’m helping start a writing team who will write articles for the website, the newsletter and Facebook page,” he said.

Heinen describes himself as the behind-the-scenes guy, while Mary and her team will meet with the community during the campaign.

Having joined the ABLE staff in October, Heinen is most impressed with the staff and their dedication to the clients.

“They feel they have a mission to improve people's lives and they are willing to use all their imagination, talent and creativity to create solutions,” he said.

Looking ahead, Heinen added, “By no means this is the end of what we can do for people with disabilities-- we have plans for the future, but right now we are focusing on these four homes.”

For more information about the campaign call 701-456-3000 or stop at the office at 1951 First St. W.