Non-profit serving children with autism searches for new home

Non-profit serving children with autism searches for new home

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico non-profit, which serves children diagnosed with autism, is searching for a new home after plans to re-purpose the property were announced by Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.

The company plans to create a marketplace and dining space on the site of the Bon Air Baptist Church’s Village Campus at the corner of Horsepen Road and Patterson Avenue.

However, that means the Richmond Autism Integration Network (R.A.I.N.) will have to relocate

“The Ukrop’s have been supportive keeping us here through the end of August because right now is when our biggest program occurs," said R.A.I.N. Program Director Catherine Pall.

The non-profit’s summer program starts Monday for roughly 25-30 students ranging in age from 13 to their early 20s.

"We do life skills and social skills for teens on the autism spectrum and we take them out in the community and do all kinds of things," Pall said.

Pall and her coworkers now face the challenge of finding a new location as soon as possible to run the non-profit serving students from Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and the City of Richmond.

"What we're really looking for is a place where we can have program space, office space, storage space all in the same location,” Pall said. “As of right now it's kind of dicey."

For five years R.A.I.N. has operated the non-profit out of a building on the Village Campus. While the cooperation with the Ukrop's has been positive, Pall said change isn't easy for kids on the spectrum.

"Routine is the most important thing," she added. “They know this building, they have a good feeling of the layout, they know how things work. When they come in for camp, or any other program, this is where you go, this is what you do, and this is what the expectations are. Not knowing, of course, makes everyone very nervous."

If searching for a new building wasn’t enough, the group is also dealing with another setback.

"For the past two years we've been fortunate to be able to rent buses from a different church we also partner with, but because of insurance changes they no longer can do that," Pall said.

R.A.I.N. needs these vans in order to accomplish the goal of the summer program. They even created a GoFundMe in an attempt to raise money for the transportation.

"We take our kids out in the community to practice those social skills that we teach them four to five times a week,” Pall said. “So we have to be able to go out and get there."

In past summer programs the students have gone to the science museum, helped pack lunches at other churches, gone to rescue shelters and more.

“They know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Pall said. “That’s why we give them that guided freedom to say what they want to work on.”

It’s through this program Pall has seen immense growth, a concept canvassed on the walls at the current property.

"We want to make sure that our kids understand that you can impact the community just like anyone else,” she said. “Just because you have a disability does not mean you are not capable. You are able to do anything that you want to do."

Anyone with information on a space or vans for this non-profit is encouraged to call Catherine at the R.A.I.N. office number (804) 754-0000.

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