Sunshine House held a celebratory sledgehammer party on June 21 in advance of construction work that begins Monday for the agency’s growth into day care for a wide variety of adults.
Sunshine House began in 1971 as a way to offer daily activities to eight people with developmental disabilities. Forty-five years later, the Sunshine House board of directors decided to expand services to those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, stroke, memory loss, cognitive impairment, the medically frail as well as seniors in need of community. They are calling the new program the Sunflower Cottage Life Enrichment Program, and they hope to have it up and running by September.
“There isn’t an adult day care service right now, and based on demographics, it’s a service that is truly needed,” said Sunshine House CEO Cindy Weber. “What brought this home to me is some of the phone calls I’ve been getting from people who are potential clients. A lot of these caregivers are at their wit’s ends. They’re doing the best they can, but being a caregiver is draining. Our goal is to create an awesome program that people feel comfortable bringing their loved ones to and they know they will be treated well.”
In order to make this happen, physical changes to the tune of $450,000 have to happen at the nearly 30-year-old Sunshine House building on Yew Street in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park. The construction will take place in four stages, with the first phase beginning Monday. That $250,000 project is already funded. The work will include a new entryway, an ADA-compliant bathroom, a renovated and accessible kitchen, an activity and living room area, a quiet room and a computer area.
Phase 2 will begin as soon as the required $100,000 is available. That work will include various upgrades to personal care areas, including the addition of a salon. “We’re seeing that is a major need,” said Community Outreach Director Crista Kochanski about the addition of a hair care salon.
Phase 2 will also include the installation of a sensory room, which is a first for Door County. Sensory rooms – or Snoezelen – is a type of therapy founded in Holland for the treatment of cognitive and developmental disabilities. The therapeutic environment of the sensory room includes lighting effects, colors, textures, sounds and aromas to stimulate patients.
“It will be used by our clients, but we’ll also open our doors to the community. We’ll work with the hospital and VA,” Kochanski said. “We toured a half-dozen sensory rooms in the Green Bay area. East Shore Industries [Sunshine House’s counterpart in Algoma] put one in last year, so we definitely met with them about what worked and what didn’t.”
“What I love about the sensory room, it allows us to serve a much larger audience – kids with autism, post-traumatic stress disorder – there are a lot of people who can be served and currently we don’t have a sensory room in Door County. We’re very excited about that,” Weber added.
Phase 3 will renovate the existing personal care bathrooms, to include bathing units. “It’s a big issue with families. How do you bathe them?” Kochanski said. The cost of Phase 3 is $50,000.
Phase 4, also $50,000, will upgrade existing meeting space to create a new boardroom. “We are repurposing it to be a community room if somebody needs meeting space,” Kochanski said.
“The timeline for all this depends on how the fundraising goes,” Weber said. “I’m hoping we raise the money during the process so we can go right into Phase 2, 3 and 4. It will be a lot less disruptive for all of our clients if we can do it all at once, but that really depends on the community stepping up on the fundraising side of things.”
While Weber said financially supporting the construction is one way to help, she suggests a couple others as well.
“Advocate for the program. Let people know we are here to provide the respite and care,” she said. “And No 3, we really are going to need an army of volunteers. Our goal is to provide a meaningful day for everyone. Well, it’s hard to provide a meaningful day for everyone when you’re at a ratio of one to 8. We really need ratios of 1 to 2, 1 to 4, or 1 to 1. So we’re going to need a lot of volunteers. We know there’s a need. We are willing to make the commitment and provide an awesome space to hopefully meet that need.”
For more information, visit sunshinehouseinc.org or sunflowercottage.org. Weber also suggests you take a look at the facility.
“Call Sunshine House, 743.7943,” she said. “We’ll be happy to show you around and show you what the program’s going to look like. We actually have had some clients already starting to mix with our current client base because they need the services now. That’s why we decided to go ahead with Phase 1.”
Sunshine House: 45 Years of Service
1971: A group of concerned citizens founded Sunshine House Inc. to offer daily activities to eight people with developmental disabilities. Volunteers offered crafts and other activities in a rented building in downtown Sturgeon Bay.
1973: Sunshine House received its first government funding, began to employ staff and developed a successful fundraising campaign to construct a building near Sturgeon Bay High School.
1986: The Door County Chamber of Commerce named Sunshine House Inc. the Industry of the Year.
1987: The current facility in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park opened its doors. An activities program and personal care program were developed in addition to work services.
1993: Began to fulfill all transportation needs with a fleet of seven vehicles.
2003: First Annual Corn Fest fundraiser was held on Sept. 10 at Schopf’s Hilltop Dairy.
2008: A 17,000 square foot production floor was added to the existing location. The $1.8 million expansion was completely funded by donations.
2016: Sunshine House expands personal care services to the aging population and opens Sunflower Cottage.
Source: Sunshine House Inc.