In 2018, JoAnn Vitale helped launch a new program through RISE Life Services that aimed to provide hands-on training, recreational opportunities and to promote independence for individuals with disabilities.
Ms. Vitale, the operations director of day and community services at RISE, has seen the day program known as Main Street Connection grow rapidly in a short time. To meet the growing demand, the Riverhead-based nonprofit organization sought an expansion that will now become reality.
“I currently have 53 individuals enrolled in the program,” Ms. Vitale said, noting that it began with two participants. “I have a waiting list because physically we just don’t have the room anymore. We’ve outgrown this space.”
RISE and Riverhead Town officials last week announced a 2,100-square-foot expansion of the Sensory Garden property on Sound Shore Road that will house the program, which is part of the RISE Day Program Without Walls.
The construction will be an addition to a 400-square-foot barn that sits on the premises.. The construction will mimic the structure and stay true to the aesthetics of the area, Ms. Vitale said.
The building will have skylights and sliding glass doors to allow light in, and will have a recreation hall and a sensory room for program participants, Ms. Vitale said.
The sensory garden, which sits on 2 1/2 acres, was chosen for the expansion because a lot of participants in the program enjoyed being in the outdoor space, she said.
“We started thinking that maybe it would be a good idea if we expanded on that because the individuals seem to love being there so much,” she said. “I don’t blame them; it’s a beautiful place.”
Construction is projected to start in early November and expected to last through early February.
Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar praised the work done at RISE.
“The need for all of these services is dire, and the work RISE does both in our community and far beyond changes lives every day,” she said in a press release. “We are proud to have RISE in Riverhead and look forward to the day the doors open.”
Charles Evdos, the executive director at RISE, said he is grateful for the support the project has received from the town.
“On behalf of our board of directors and every individual who will benefit from this new project, I want to thank Supervisor Aguiar and the Town of Riverhead government for helping us move forward with this project,” he said in a press release. “This plan has been in the works for some time and with cooperation between the Town and RISE, it is now a reality.”
RISE Life Services, previously known as Aid to the Developmentally Disabled, was established in Riverhead in 1980 to provide a range of services to developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dual diagnosed adults.