Westminster group home welcomed

Nonprofit renovates dilapidated building

April 23, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Flying Colors of Success, a nonprofit organization that operates homes for people with developmental disabilities in Carroll County and elsewhere, is helping not only its clients but also its new neighbors in Westminster.

Local residents and well-wishers stopped by the group's open house yesterday at 88 E. Main St. to see what the once-decrepit two-story brick apartment house has become.

A photo album drew horrified shrieks from those who browsed the pages that document what the building once was.

One apartment had mold-covered walls that looked as though someone had splattered brown paint all over them. The ceilings were a combination of exposed wooden slats and pipes, and the basement was a conglomeration of junk and garbage.

"It was thoroughly disgusting. It was uninhabitable, even though when we first looked at it there were people living there," said Executive Director Mike Hardesty. "It was not fit for man nor beast."

The building was owned by Nelson B. Dorsey until his bank foreclosed and sold it to Flying Colors. Dorsey, who recently declared bankruptcy, also owns a building at 110 E. Main St. that city officials have ordered him to demolish by April 30.

Barbara Weber, owner and director of Main Street Early Learning Center, which is next door to Flying Colors, said she couldn't be happier with her new neighbors.

"We had people say that just because of the building next door, they wouldn't bring their children here," she said. "I pleaded with [Dorsey] to do something about the condition of the building, but I got no help, I got nothing."

R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of Greater Westminster Development Corp., said the improved building makes his promotional job easier.

"What a great development; it's a really good use of the building," he said. "It benefits everybody, especially the immediate neighbors."

Hardesty said the group paid $75,000 for the property in June and spent $130,000 renovating it before moving in January. It was recently appraised at $270,000, he said.

The renovated building has wood floors in the foyer and carpets on the rest of the floors, white walls with wood molding, and window trim painted green with matching window treatments. The back door, which is accessible to the handicapped, opens to a wood deck with a picnic table.

Flying Colors, whose $1.35 million annual budget is funded largely through the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, operates four homes in western Baltimore County and five in Carroll with another on the way.

Unlike large group homes, Flying Colors' homes have a maximum of three client residents with one live-in staff member. The group serves people with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

The organization was spun off from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in 1991 and has almost 50 full-time and part-time employees.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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