Monday, September 01, 2014

$1.5M grant to make COF housing safer for consumers

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 10/10/2012

A local organization is getting a $1.5 million grant to shore up its housing for the region’s residents with disabilities.

COF Training Services Inc., 1516 N. Davis Ave., Ottawa, received word from FHLBank Topeka Sept. 28 it would receive a $1,508,000 grant — the largest grant in COF’s history — to renovate 13 homes and an apartment complex in Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties, Carla Bienhoff, COF project manager, said.

A local organization is getting a $1.5 million grant to shore up its housing for the region’s residents with disabilities.

COF Training Services Inc., 1516 N. Davis Ave., Ottawa, received word from FHLBank Topeka Sept. 28 it would receive a $1,508,000 grant — the largest grant in COF’s history — to renovate 13 homes and an apartment complex in Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties, Carla Bienhoff, COF project manager, said.

The renovations will include installing sprinkler systems in the housing units, Bienhoff said.

COF serves residents with developmental disabilities, also known as consumers, in Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties. About 100 people live in COF’s housing units, she said.

“We have residents with developmental disabilities, and sometimes they cannot exit a home quickly, which becomes a safety issue,” Bienhoff said, explaining why the sprinkler systems are needed.

Alarm systems, with pull chains, will be installed in COF’s apartment complex on North Cherry Street in Ottawa, Bienhoff said.

“The pull chains are being installed in case of a fall,” she said. “If a resident pulls the chain, it will activate an alarm in the central office of the apartment complex [to alert staff on duty].”

The grant also will pay for roof repairs, patching concrete and making at least one — if not two — bathrooms in each facility handicap accessible, Bienhoff said.

The funds also will be used to install more energy efficient appliances as well as upgrade kitchen counter tops and flooring, Bienhoff said.

The renovations are expected to begin in mid-November, once the FHLBank paperwork had been processed, Bienhoff said Wednesday. FHLBank is part of a system of Federal Home Loan Banks regulated through the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“We would like to have the renovations completed by the first of May,” Bienhoff said.

Bienhoff said COF received nearly all of the grant amount she had applied for with FHLBank.

“We were very pleased to receive the grant,” Bienhoff said. “I had asked for $1,514,000, so we got almost all of it.”

In addition to the North Cherry Street apartment complex, Bienhoff said, the housing units to be renovated include:

• Two houses on 13th Street in Ottawa.

• Two houses on West Wilson Street in Ottawa.

• One home on North Cherry Street in Ottawa.

• One house on North Hemlock Street in Ottawa.

• Three homes in Osage City.

• Four houses in Burlington.

The funding marked the second grant Bienhoff has obtained since becoming project manager 18 months ago. COF used the other grant — $150,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development — to hire a service coordinator, Bienhoff said. The HUD grant is to be paid out over a three-year period, she said.

“The service coordinator is in charge of setting up activities and recruiting volunteers to help with our programs,” Bienhoff said.

Researching and applying for grants is part of Bienhoff’s new role as project manager. She previously had worked the past 6-1/2 years as a bookkeeper for COF.

“We had not applied for grants in the past, until about a year-and-a-half ago,” Bienhoff said. “We decided we wanted to explore this avenue [of funding].”

COF has two other grant applications in the works, Bienhoff said.

The organization has applied for a $5,000 grant from Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores to pay for activity fees for some of its residents, Bienhoff said, as well as cover some of the transportation costs associated with those activities. The project manager said she should receive word in November if COF will be awarded the Love’s grant.

COF also has applied for a $10,000 grant through Union Pacific railroad, which would be used to fund an art program and update technology for individual iPads, which have proven effective in aiding disabled residents, she said. Bienhoff said she should receive notice about that grant in January.

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com

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