Children's Home looks to expand.

It's lunchtime at the Eagle Valley Children's Home, and that means helping Diana, Tracy, their wheelchairs and a few others through the oldest portions of the building to the lunchroom on the building's north end.

Since 1946, the home has offered a family-like atmosphere and quality care for profoundly retarded and developmentally disabled children, teens and adults. Nestled in the northwest corner of Carson City, the home started as a place for infants and toddlers, but now pictures of 15 residents from as young as 8 to adults in their 40s grace the wall of the Children's Home office.

At a table designed to accommodate wheelchairs, about five of the Children's Home residents gather for individually prepared meals and to help celebrate Diana's birthday. Not far away, meals pour out of the same kitchen built in 1966 to serve the home's residents.

The labyrinth-like home is full of bedrooms decorated to the individual tastes of each resident. In Tracy's room, pictures of Olivia Newton-John grace the walls. Rikki Ann's room was painted a shade of pink that her mother decorated with painted daisies and a bed with a welded orange frame. Most residents have pictures of their families and other things important to them.

Originally a ranch house, parts of the home date back to the 1920s, as near as Executive Director Pam Smith can tell. While the home has been adapted and expanded over the years, it is no longer adequate to meet the needs of a program that wants to grow, Smith said.

The Children's Home plans to break ground late this spring on roughly 17,000 square feet of new residential, office, activity and storage space. While the project has no cost tied to it yet, it is expected to take between a year and 18 months to complete, she said.

"We've done a lot of creative use of storage space," Smith said. "We've made do, but we will be so much more in line with the services we want to give."

With the expansion, Smith expects to make immediately available one more space and eventually remodel the existing facility to allow for an extra 16 residents at a place that focuses on making life as normal as possible for those who require 24-hour care.

"We are an institution by size but not by philosophy or stereotype," Smith said.

Smith continually calls the home unique. There is no place like it in Nevada, perhaps not elsewhere in the country, she said. Part of the reason is because residents at the home are treated as individuals and participate in activities interesting to each one.

Some cross-country ski, others ride horses or swim. One child is in Girl Scouts. Several of the residents have specialized beds to accommodate their particular disability, and others have custom-made communication systems.

Gary, for instance, has a wall of wooden cubby holes with various items in each one. If he wants to watch television, he takes a video tape from a cubby hole to a staff member. Tracy has a computerized system that attaches to his wheel chair.

All the adults participate in a occupational therapy program at the Workplace. On Research Way, the Children's Home has rented about 2,800 square feet of space for a recycling operation where the home's residents crush cans, vacuum and help to prepare meals, among other duties. Each worker earns $5 a month to spend as they like.

"This is a normalizing event," Smith said. "Our lives are so full of individual tasks we don't think of. There, they learn what you and I do every day: get up, get ready go to work."

Smith also hopes to increase the home's respite program, which offers 30 hours of care a month to families within a 60-mile radius of Carson with developmentally disabled members. Smith estimates there are from 81 families to 90 families.

The home, a nonprofit corporation with a volunteer board of directors, exists by private donations and its major payer, Medicaid. Smith said the expansion of the Children's Home has been on the drawing board for the last year and a half and was not dependent on a recent $10 million sale of 56 acres of property to Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

"That guarantees a better future for us," Smith said. "They've proven to be a good neighbor at their current site, and I don't see it as anything but a positive."

Wednesday, the Carson City Planning Commission will review plans for the expansion, which will add two buildings, one for a new kitchen, laundry and storage, the other for offices, bedrooms, a therapy pool and activity rooms, to the north of the existing buildings. The entire facility will be connected with corridors. When the new buildings are completed, current operations and residents will be moved into them as the old building is remodeled.

For information on the Eagle Valley Children's Home, call 882-1188.


What: Carson City Planning Commission meeting

When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Carson City Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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