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Growth spurs The Morrison Center's expansion in Wells

January 31, 2017 in News

Author: Laurie Schreiber
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Growth spurs The Morrison Center's expansion in Wells

Photo courtesy The Morrison Center
PHOTO COURTESY THE MORRISON CENTER
The Morrison Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to help people of all ages with disabilities, has purchased an office building at 2250 Post Road in Wells for $300,000 to facilitate its expansion.

WELLS — Demand for the services of The Morrison Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to help people of all ages with disabilities, has prompted the expansion of its facilities in Wells.

The Morrison Center purchased an office building at 2250 Post Road for $300,000 to facilitate its expansion. John Downing of The Downing Agency represented seller Douglas Merrill and Greg Perry of Cardente Real Estate represented The Morrison Center in a deal that closed Jan. 4.

"The community is wonderful," said Executive Director Mark Ryder. "We love being part of Wells."

The Morrison Center incorporated in the 1950s in Portland. The organization today operates three campuses — its headquarters in Scarborough, a smaller facility in Portland and its first facility in Wells, at 526 Post Road.

Rapid growth

Specializing in complex and involved developmental disabilities, the center's programming includes a preschool and childcare program, a K-12 special-purpose grade school, adult day community support programs, case management services for children and adults, and an integrated therapy clinic for all ages. Its support team includes educators, therapists, direct care professionals, and a full-time registered nurse. New this year, the center partnered with the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on Falmouth's Mackworth Island to help advance educational services for the K-12 program there. Morrison also is in its second year of partnering with School Administrative District 55 to provide specialized preschooler services within South Hiram Elementary School.

Client numbers overall have tripled in the past five years, Ryder said. On the children's side, the organization had six K-12 students overall five years ago; today it serves over 30.

The adult side doubled in the past five years. Case management, a new program as of five years ago, now serves over 100 individuals. The organization also runs nine residential group homes, and there's a waiting list.

Increased clientele, said Ryder, reflects both increased need and the "build it and they will come" scenario — families with members previously in need simply didn't have a place to go for highly specialized services.

Four years ago, the organization decided to establish a facility in Wells and bought the 526 Post Road property — the former Mainiax restaurant — gutted it and reproduced a facility similar to Scarborough's, but on a smaller scale, for adult, pre-school and K-12 programs. That program filled up within a year.

Ryder and his board of directors decided to search for a second facility in Wells, a community that's proved supportive of the organization. The goal was to find a nearby property to relocate the adult program, thus also allowing the children's program to expand in the existing facility.

What the new expansion accomplishes

"That's where the 2550 Post Road building comes into play," Ryder said.

The 2,300-square-foot building, formerly a chiropractor's office, is just down the street from the existing facility.

The agency expects to invest about $200,000 in refitting the space. The exterior will remain the same. The interior will be gutted and reconfigured with small treatment rooms, a large activity space with a culinary corner (clients love to cook and it develops independent life skills), a therapy room with specialized equipment, and personal care space with mobility equipment used to support clients.

Work was expected to start mid-January. The goal is to be operational by March 15.

The staff will also grow, he said.

The agency currently employs about 250; about 20 of them are in Wells. The Wells expansion will result in more hiring, probably an initial six to 10, depending on how quickly space is filled.

For the future, said Ryder, "We hope to expand the Wells program even more — creating a state-of-the art school building as well as developing additional adult programming facilities. This is our first step in our Wells strategic expansion plan."

What makes the property perfect, Ryder said, is its location in the heart of town.

"Our folks can be in close proximity to what's happening, so we can integrate them into the community," he said.

The current Wells space serves approximately 20 adult clients and about 30 preschoolers. The new space will be able to serve between 40 and 50 adults. Capacity for preschoolers at the older Wells facility will become 55-60.

Mix of financing

As a 501c3 nonprofit, the purchase and rebuild are financed through existing capital funds, new lending, donations, and fundraising.

Two fundraisers were spearheaded by Morrison Center broker Perry. In fact, that's how Perry ended up working with the agency to find a property. Perry is on the board of directors of the Maine Commercial Association of Realtors, which does at least two volunteer events per year. In 2015, the MCAR board selected Morrison as a beneficiary. Perry, with the board's help, organized a golf tournament at Prout's Neck Golf Course as the fundraiser, which raised about $8,000. MCAR's second golf tournament fundraiser last fall for Morrison raised about $11,000.

"It's a really good place to contribute to," said Perry.

The Maine Commercial Association of Realtors board recently voted to stick with Morrison for its next event.

"We feel so fortunate to have their support," said Ryder.

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