By Elizabeth Scussel of C&G Newspapers
BEVERLY HILLS/ROYAL OAK — The Lahser Respite Home, in Beverly Hills, will remain fully operational for the upcoming year, Judson Center officials say.
The announcement was made three months after news that the home may close its doors indefinitely.
Kelli Dobner, vice president and chief development officer for the Judson Center, said that thanks to donations from the community and a number of local businesses, they were able to reach their goal of $120,000 — the home’s yearly operating cost.
“We even had kids coming out of the woodwork to help,” Dobner said, explaining that one young boy came in and emptied his piggybank, while another girl gave a single dollar for the cause. Another group of children, she said, held a drive and collected 6,000 bottles and cans — resulting in a $600 donation.
“It’s really inspiring and energizing. It’s heartwarming,” Dobner said. “We never thought this could happen — this outpour from the community, this fundraising campaign. We realized we’re not alone in this. People really care about the services we provide.”
For more than nine decades, the Judson Center has offered services to aid children, adults and families impacted by autism, developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, abuse and neglect.
Annually, the Judson Center helps more than 6,000 people through programs for children and adults, including counseling and therapy, social groups, vocational services, foster care and more.
While private pay is an option at LRH, financial aid is offered through the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center — a state agency providing services and support for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
Due to a decline in mental health funding, state money covers about 50-60 percent of the yearly operating cost of the home, and LRH must raise the additional funds to keep the home running.
The LRH serves as Judson Center’s only respite home in Oakland County and assists 45 families, which, due to the budget cuts, is a decrease from last year’s 61 families. The home also serves as the only respite home in Oakland County for youth ages 18 and younger.
Comfort, care and activities are provided at the home, offering a break to family members and caregivers.
The services provided at LRH, Dobner said, are a necessity, as caring for someone with a mental or physical disability can be unbelievably taxing on families.
News of the home remaining open is travelling quickly around the community.
“(The families) are just overjoyed,” Dobnew said. “A number of the parents were crying. Tears were coming to their eyes immediately. They were just overwhelmed. Lahser is a lifeline for many of these families. One parent actually said, ‘It fills my heart to the point of bursting.’”
One woman overjoyed with the news is Nora Bushman, whose 21-year-old son has frequented the home for more than a decade.
“When I heard it was staying open, I burst out in tears,” she said.
Bushman’s son, Blake, has had a neurological disorder since birth, is nonverbal and portrays autism-like characteristics.
The home, she said, not only allows her extra freedom, but it also exposes her son to other situations and environments.
The closing of LRH would not only send a ripple through the lives of the parents and their children, Busman said, it’s also a matter of the home’s care staff losing their jobs.
“We love the staff,” she said. “Everyone there has been so supportive, and there’s not a huge turnover rate. You see the same faces there for years.”
Bushman said she — as most parents are — was hesitant and leery of leaving her son in the care of someone else.
For parents feeling that way, Bushman said to take baby steps.
“Once I became comfortable sending him there, I thought, ‘Why didn’t I use this before?’ she said. “Just give it a try.”
As of now, annual fundraising efforts must be made in order to keep LRH fully functional, but as far as future fundraising is concerned, Dobner said she’s feeling confident because of the communal outpour they have already received.
“We just have the most immense and deep gratitude at the Judson Center for these true community efforts. My words cannot do it justice, just so much gratitude for how much they care.”
LRH offers accommodations for six children between the ages of 5 and 17, and their stays can last anywhere from four hours to several days. If a child begins service at LRH before the age of 17, the home will provide services until he or she reaches the age of 26.