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W.Va. Alzheimer's Association finds new home

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 48,000 West Virginians have Alzheimer's disease and, as that number continues to grow, so does the Alzheimer's Association's state headquarters.

The West Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is moving its headquarters from its current 1111 Lee St. location to Charleston's West Side.

The move will more than double the available square footage -- from a 1,750-square-foot house to a 4,500-square-foot building. The group will move in to 1601 Second Ave., near the Patrick Street Plaza, by mid-April.

"It's a really exciting opportunity for us, because we've been on the hunt for some space for six months or so. We were able to find some fantastic space," said Laurel Kirksey, director of constituent relations for the West Virginia chapter. "It's really convenient being downtown, but the benefits of having double the space out-weighs being downtown."

More space means that more community workshops and educational programs can be offered, she said.

A highlight of the association's move, Kirksey said, is the 40- by 28-foot education and training center. More than 3,000 family and professional caregivers are trained each year at the Charleston headquarters. Since the current location is too small, the training programs are hosted at churches and community centers. Now the group can offer the workshops for up to 60 people at its office.

"We love our support groups throughout the state that host our events," Kirksey said, "but it's also great to be able to have resources right here."

The number of people who participate in support groups -- those who have Alzheimer's and their caregivers -- will increase, as well, she said.

Mismatched chairs surround two long tables in the middle of what is currently the nonprofit's support-group room. Only six family members can sit in the room at one time.

The group's new headquarters will have a larger support-group room -- up to 20 people can fit -- that will double as a private meeting space for family care consultations.

The new room will have comfortable sofas and chairs to re-create a homey-type atmosphere, said Jane Marks, executive director of the West Virginia chapter.

Two groups meet at the headquarters monthly -- a spouses support group and an early-stage support group. About 15 people participate in the spouses support group -- a number that will increase, Kirksey said.

The support-group room isn't the only expansion for the organization.

The West Virginia chapter has eight employees who are crammed into the Lee Street offices. Rooms that once served as bedrooms in the old house are divided into multiple offices, two desks per room.

In the new building, employees will have their own offices, Kirksey said. Private offices are important because the Charleston headquarters receives more than 1,000 calls annually on its Education and Support Helpline at 800-272-3900, she said. Employees will now be able to provide people with more privacy and direct attention.

The new office space is being renovated. The Alzheimer's Association will pay 20 percent of the renovation costs while Hospice Care -- the group it is leasing the space from -- will pay the rest of the cost.

The empty office space will get new carpet, ceilings, paint and the addition of a kitchen and more offices.

In the Lee Street location's kitchen, a copier sits next to the refrigerator and, if an employee isn't careful, important papers could soak up coffee spilled on the counter.

The new office building will have a break room and a reception area.

To fund the $60,000 move, the group has launched a fundraising campaign, Move Our Mission Forward. The association is reaching out to its larger supporters and the community in general to prevent the state chapter from tapping into the reserve money used for its services, Kirksey said.

"Our goal is to raise enough money to fund the entire move," Kirksey said. "Moving is pretty costly, so things like our new telephone system ... can be funded through our mini campaign."

Donors have the option of naming a specific room in the state's headquarters, Marks said.

The West Virginia chapter had to move its headquarters when the owner, the YWCA, said it was selling the house, located across the street from the Clay Center.

The house served as the group's headquarters for 10 years.

The Alzheimer's Association state chapter serves all 55 West Virginia counties as well as six counties in eastern Ohio. To learn more about the West Virginia chapter or to donate to the group, call 304-343-2717 or visit www.alz.org/wv.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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