...to enrich the lives of families with special needs children
through customized therapeutic experiences
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Whether now is the time to raise millions for the second portion of a one-of-a-kind therapeutic center remains to be seen, but work continues on Leg Up Farm as it prepares to open in May.
A Felton-area consulting company has begun a feasibility study to determine when -- and whether -- to launch a $10.4 million capital campaign to pay for the entire project.
That money would pay for remaining construction and outstanding loans on Leg Up, which is in the 4800 block of North Sherman Street Extended in East Manchester Township.
The main portion of the therapeutic center is nearing completion and will open to employ more than 40 staffers who will serve more than 1,000 special needs children in the 20,250-square-foot facility. The center will serve a wide range of individuals -- infants to adults up to age 21 and their families.
Construction of the second phase of the project, an equine center for riding therapy, begins in April thanks to a $1 million state redevelopment grant.
The third and final construction phase would include an interactive community center featuring a greenhouse, therapy pool and auditorium and an outdoor garden for fresh-air play and sensory therapy.
The center's founder and president, Lou Castriota Jr., says he hopes to launch the capital campaign to ensure completion of the entire project and to pay off loans.
Funding: So far, Castriota's family, friends and other supporters have raised $2.7 million, including the state grant, since forming the non-for-profit in 1997. Castriota also secured a $5.6 million loan split between USDA Rural Development and York Traditions Bank to begin construction on a hilltop lot that also was donated.
Now, Sharon Dorn of Clear Creek Consulting LLC of York County is conducting the capital campaign planning and feasibility study. She has started interviewing about three dozen prospective donors to determine whether they can pledge contributions during the next five years.
Their answers will enable Dorn to run the figures to see if pledges would add up to the $10.4 million needed for completion of the project. If not, she said she'll assess how much can be raised and in what time frame.
"In essence, this is the first phase of the capital campaign," Dorn said last week. "In most cases you go forward, but (data) could come back a few different ways."
She says those interviewed so far support Leg Up despite economic hard times. Part of the support stems from Castriota's passion for the project. The center offers parents and their children the bulk of services needed under one roof.
Getting ready: Castriota is putting in place the finishing touches on the administrative center that houses physical therapy equipment, multipurpose rooms, a play therapy area and offices for the May opening.
The indoor riding area and barn are part of the second phase that should be complete in July, with therapeutic horseback riding available by fall, Castriota said.
He and wife Laurie Castriota initially wanted to build an equine therapy center that would combine their love of horses with their love of children. At the time, the couple wanted to give back to the community and help children with special needs.
Six months after their initial discussions in 1997, their then-infant daughter Brooke, now 14, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, which is similar to cerebral palsy. The equine therapy center morphed into the one-stop healing center where children could obtain physical, psychological and social therapies under one roof.
It also will provide education and advocacy for special-needs individuals and their families.
"I am just so thrilled walking around the building knowing that in a very short time, this dream is going to be a reality and children will be running through the halls of Leg Up Farm," Castriota said. "It's as much or more than I could have ever imagined."
Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Leg Up Farm in York County is expecting to save about $16,000 this year in energy costs as a result of help from a local nonprofit.
Lou Castriota Jr., President and CEO of Leg Up Farm, has been working for more than a decade to turn the project into a reality. Over the last five years, the York County Community Foundation's Energy Program has assisted Castriota with making the building energy efficient, he said.
Leg Up Farm opened April 9 in East Manchester Township. It offers therapy and support services for children with disabilities and their families.
"The environment is extremely important to Leg Up Farm's therapy model, so early on in our construction process I felt as though it was important for us, based on our programming, to seek out and pursue green building," Castriota said. "We would not have been able to do what we did without the support of the York County Community Foundation's energy program, as a nonprofit organization."
The foundation's energy program was established in 1993. The program has helped about 130 nonprofit organizations in York County realize total energy savings of roughly $7 million, said Marcus Sheffer, president of Warrington Township-based Energy Opportunities. Sheffer serves as energy consultant for the foundation.
The program provided consulting services to nonprofits to technically and financially help them make their facilities more energy efficient, he said. The program works with eight to 12 nonprofits each year, he said.
"The whole idea behind the program is to help York County nonprofit organizations to reduce their energy costs," Sheffer said. "If they have lower energy costs, that's more money they have for the services they provide for the community. It benefits the nonprofit's bottom line, which benefits the community's bottom line."
The program's assistance resulted in a plan that could save Leg Up Farm $1 million in energy costs over the lifespan of the newly constructed building, which could be 40 to 50 years, Castriota said. The project is pursuing Leadership in Environmental Engineering & Design (LEED) certification with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The program helped Castriota secure a $35,000 grant in late 2007 from the Metropolitan Edison Sustainable Energy Fund, which paid for a lot of the costs related to green building, Castriota said.
The consulting provided to Leg Up Farm by the foundation throughout the process is valued at around $10,000, Shaffer said. The energy program's committee also recently recommended the project be given a $5,000 grant to help offset the costs associated with making the building energy efficient, he said.
The program is available to assist with retrofitting existing buildings, as well as helping to design energy efficient construction projects. The group looks to reduce energy costs of retrofit projects by about 25 percent on average. New construction projects can save closer to 50 percent, Sheffer said. The payback periods vary but some projects can see an immediate payback, he said.
Program services include an assessment of potential energy opportunities, which might mean lighting and temperature adjustments, a study of utility bills, a financial analysis, help with grant proposals and implementation assistance.
The program is funded through two endowments at the foundation -- the Charles G. Eyster Family Fund and the Energy Conservation Fund.
Over the past year, the program has restructured in a way that will create a more focused and comprehensive approach by honing in on a smaller number of projects each year, Sheffer said. They will likely assess the same amount of projects each year, but it will pick three or four to really dive into, he said.
"The interest in the program ebbs and flows with increases in energy costs," he said. "I think we're starting to see another (surge in) interest in the program, primarily related to the electricity rate caps."