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Guest House thrives at new Oak Street site 1 year after eviction

POSTED: December 28, 2013 10:56 p.m.

Friday activities are posted at The Guest House as activities director Margie Tice Hurst helps Elizabeth Allison get to bingo in the lunchroom. Activities keep the adult day care clients busy, a board member said, but they miss a wood shop left behind in last year's forced move. A remedy is in the works.

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This time last year, Dana Chapman was in “panic mode.”

As the executive director of The Guest House, a private, nonprofit adult day care center specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Chapman didn’t have the answers she, the staff and the patients sought.

The day before Thanksgiving, the center was served with an eviction notice from the Gainesville Housing Authority’s Tower Heights community building it operated out of for the last two decades. The center had been unable to negotiate a new lease with the authority after it expired in 2005. The center had occupied the space rent-free.

The center and the authority were able to come to an agreement in court and extended the Guest House’s use of the facility for a few months while it sought another location.

Chapman said those months were stressful. She didn’t know if the center would be able to stay open and what would happen to her staff and the patients and families they care for.

“(The patients) would have been forced into ER visits or into nursing homes before they needed to go,” Chapman said. “... They might have been forced to leave home where this way they might never have to leave home.”

Several local businesses and organizations came to the aid the center and helped with every step of the process, from finding a new, affordable location, renovating the space and helping to move into the space at 360 Oak St. in May.

While the last year has been full of changes the move has put the center in a much better place.

“We’ve created a really nice open, light environment for our clients,” Chapman said. “It’s a happier, livelier, more engaging atmosphere in this neighborhood and in this building.”

The only thing missing from the new location is a wood shop. The nonprofit previously used the hobby shop to house its woodworking program, which benefits clients, many who have with dementia, by letting them practice hand-eye coordination.

The old wood shop was built in 2001 by West Hall High School students, but the nonprofit had to leave the building at its former location.

Padgham Fine Custom Home, located across the street from the center, has volunteered to provide the nonprofit with a new hobby shop. Padgham intended to start building the center’s new shop earlier this year but the rainy weather and business obligations delayed the project. Lummus Supply and ABC Supply, both in Oakwood, have donated or discounted materials to use for the project, which is expected to begin soon.

Jeff Butler, vice president of the center’s executive board, said the wood shop activities have certainly been missed though patients have been kept busy with other projects in the mean time.

“I think that there are so many good activities there, and that’s just one of them that had a dedicated volunteer who makes the program such a good program,” Butler said.

The outpouring of community support over the last year has also allowed the center to balance its budget and start the new year in better financial shape.

Chapman said she had originally budgeted to be $38,000 in the red by the end of the year, but the center currently is only $1,000 in debt.

Several community groups including the Lanier Corvette Club, Citizens of Georgia Power and the Chattahoochee County Club’s Tennis Committee recently made contributions to the center.

“I think over the course of the year, the Guest House has re-established itself as a great service to the community,” Chapman said. “I think people had kind of forgotten that we did what we do and we specialize in the kind of care that we provide. Just to have the community remember us and recognize that we’re still here after 28 years has been wonderful.”


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