Easter Seals building off-limits after flooding

Disabled children will have to find another place to go, distraught staff says
Katie Shepard, Rogue Valley director for Easter Seals, says flooding damage at its Medford building will make the site unusable for the programís special needs children for the foreseeable future.Bob Pennell

Disabled children have been left high and dry for the holidays after an Easter Seal building at the corner of McAndrews Road and Columbus Avenue flooded during recent storms.

Dismayed children who are used to their routines were told they would have to leave the building Saturday after water started gushing into a play area.

"They were absolutely bawling," said Katie Shepard, Rogue Valley area director for Easter Seals. "One boy didn't understand why he had to leave before he could eat his meal."

The yellow building across from the Santo Center serves as many as 30 children or young adults at a time. They require special attention for disabilities including Down Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. Overall, the local Easter Seals organization serves more than 400 children annually.

Sump pumps have drained most of the water from the building, but carpeting has been soaked and Shepard is worried that mold and damp conditions could aggravate children's asthma or other respiratory problems.

Another storm predicted for Monday night and today also concerned Shepard.

Various opinions have been offered in how to deal with the situation, including fans, dehumidifiers and replacing soggy carpeting.

But for the near future, the building will be off-limits for children, and Shepard said her organization doesn't have the resources to fix the building quickly.

"I don't know what to do," Shepard said. "I am so nervous."

Shepard said her organization, which doesn't have flood insurance, urgently needs another space to hold activities for children and young adults.

Easter Seals has leased the former Camp White building from the city of Medford since 1998, but this is the first time it has flooded, she said.

Shepard and her staff first noticed water entering a lower portion of the building Saturday morning. The Medford Parks and Recreation Department, which leases the building to Easter Seals, brought in a sump pump.

"We worked our tails off for 12 hours," Shepard said

Volunteers such as Jennifer Bills helped push out the water and move furnishings and toys out of harm's way.

Then, another big storm hit Saturday night and the flooding started again.

Bills said the situation has overwhelmed the Easter Seals organization.

"They don't have the funds or the budget to try and save that building," she said.

In its lease with the city, Easter Seals agreed to provide maintenance for the building. Even so, Shepard said, city workers helped drain the crawl space under building, which lies in a low point next to Jackson Park.

City workers determined the flooding was not caused by a broken pipe, she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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