From farmhouse to 24-hour care facility

01/26/2014 8:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | General contractor Roy Schweers and New Beginnings founder Allyson Scerri outside the old farmhouse on Sound Avenue being renovated for Brendan House, a long-term care facility for adults with brain trauma.

Amid huge swaths of open space, farmhouse after farmhouse dots scenic Sound Avenue. Among them, on the south side of the road across from Reeve Farm in Riverhead, sits a historic home that’s in the middle of a renovation and extension project unlike any other the North Fork’s rural corridor has ever seen.

New Beginnings, a nonprofit founded by Alysson Scerri after her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2007, is building a long-term medical care facility at 4079 Sound Ave. The two-story, 1,900-square-foot house was built in the early 1900s. While removing its kitchen and modernizing the existing space, Ms. Scerri and general contractor Roy Schweers are also overseeing the addition of a 2,500-square-foot rear extension to the building. They hope to have that project completed by summer.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The existing portion of the Brendan House project dates back to the early 1900s, featuring built-in cabinets and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows on the first floor.

The completed structure will be called Brendan House, after Blue Point resident Brendan Aykroyd, who at 25 died after suffering a brain injury in a 2009 assault. It will be part medical facility and 100 percent home for a severely underserved group of individuals.

The building “fell into our lap,” said Ms. Scerri, explaining that the home’s former owner bequeathed it to New Beginnings in 2011. Since then, raising funds, receiving donated goods and appearing before the local zoning board have all been part and parcel of establishing the 24-hour care facility for adults, a rarity on Long Island.

Greg Ayotte, director of consumer services with the Brain Injury Association of America, said funding for such facilities is often the biggest hurdle to getting brain-injured people the care they need.

“Most folks who sustain a severe brain injury end up in a skilled nursing home, a nursing home or just at home,” he said. While nursing homes naturally have the necessary round-the-clock resources, individuals who aren’t age-appropriate for a nursing home could experience setbacks from being in the wrong environment — if they’re accepted into the facility at all.

“Especially when they’re younger, you might see a lot of behavioral problems, not just because of their injury, but because of their environment,” Mr. Ayotte said. “If you have a 40-year-old stuck with a bunch of 80-year-olds, that might create a few problems.”

Pointing to Brendan House, he said, “There is certainly a need for longer-term care community-based programs.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | In the back of the house the studs are up for the kitchen (left) and bedrooms at right. General contractor Roy Schweers said installing plumbing and electric will be up next.

People have responded to help make that happen.

Among others, the Riverhead Lions Club cut a check for $4,000 and plans to donate $2,000 a year in perpetuity. The family of Justin Walker — a Riverhead High School graduate who had suffered a traumatic brain injury and will likely be placed at Brendan House — donated another $2,500.

Contracting company Babe Roof donated materials and labor to put a new roof on the facility, a job Mr. Schweers estimates is worth at least $6,000 to $10,000. In addition, Revco has donated lighting and Home Depot has contributed building materials. Electrical service throughout the house will be installed with the help of the Electrical Training Center, a school for those hoping to get into the field.

Mr. Schweers — who also built New Beginnings’ 9,000-square-foot outpatient facility in Medford — has also used volunteer labor from the Suffolk County Department of Corrections, a service he initially thought would be a one-time thing.

“But they keep coming,” he said. “They even wanted to work on Christmas.”

Due to the building budget, Mr. Schweers said the newly constructed part of the facility will have a more modern feel, while the existing farmhouse will retain its older look with interior renovations. The bones of the house are strong, he said, though a new heating system will be needed to make the building livable.

In back, two smaller structures are also being converted for use. One will house a full-time caregiver while another will hold two bedrooms. In total, Brendan House will be able to accommodate 12 people.

Ms. Scerri, who described herself as “just a hairdresser” before starting New Beginnings, said the nonprofit would build more variations of Brendan House if it could, pointing to a need for long-term, 24-hour care facilities in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“We need three more of these buildings,” she said.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

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