By Megann Jakubek
PHOENIX — On a sun-splashed fall morning, more than 200 volunteers traded their business attire for work clothes and work gloves to help transform the Perry Rehabilitation Center at the Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped (AFH).
The occasion was Saturday’s 27th annual Valley Partnership Community Project.
Each year Valley Partnership undertakes a community project benefiting a nonprofit organization and dedicates long volunteer hours to fundraising and working on the project.
“When we selected AFH as our community project recipient early this year we set out to enhance the quality of life for the clients they serve by adding a serenity garden that incorporated therapeutic elements into four experiences – education, music, recreation and culinary arts,” said Community Project Committee Co-chair Dena Jones.
This year, about 130 companies lent a helping hand by sponsoring the project. More than 55 companies donated more than $180,000 in services, support, and funds to rebuild the outdoor common areas for AFH, 3146 E. Windsor Ave. in Phoenix.
AFH has served adults with developmental disabilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1952 and was chosen among multiple applicants as this year’s Valley Partnership Project recipient.
“They made it a surprise; we had no idea we had been selected and they threw us a big celebration with cake and balloons,” Perry Center Director Robyn Ratcliff said. “It was really fun.”
Saturday’s work at Perry Rehabilitation Center featured the addition of therapeutic elements including a sensory garden, musical instrument garden, patio with a built-in grill and dining area, wheelchair ramps, raised garden boxes, a landscape screen, gliding swings, a gazebo, a wall mural, a sports court, and various outdoor games.
Contractors were busy working at the site for three weeks prior to the community project day.
“Today was the culmination of everyone coming together as a team to bring the concept to life,” Jones said.
“I’m sure everyone will wake up Sunday morning with sore muscles and a few scrapes and scratches,” said Community Project committee member Peter Madrid. “But it’s one of the most satisfying feelings in the world because it’s all about giving back to the community. That’s what this is all about.”
Dale Hunnewell, a former student at the Art Institute of Phoenix, designed the wall mural near the sports and game court. It incorporated the elements and experiences being added to the center including flowers and grass to represent the garden, and musical notes to represent the outdoor instruments.
“The music and the sensory elements really help in developing individuals with disabilities and enhance the quality of life,” Community Project Committee Co-chair Heather Markham said.
Funds for the musical instrument sensory garden were raised by Valley Partnership’s inaugural Rock for a Cause concert at the Monarch Theater in Downtown Phoenix. The concert raised more than $8,000 to purchase outdoor musical instruments.
“It’s really important for us because for many years it’s been on our agenda to create an outdoor space that’s usable for the people with disabilities that we serve,” Ratcliff said.
Valley Partnership represents the commercial, industrial and master planned real estate development industry in Metro Phoenix.
“We have four missions: advocacy, education, business development, and the community project,” Valley Partnership President and CEO Richard Hubbard said.
Over the past 25 years, Valley Partnership has contributed more than $4 million to the community through these annual projects, Hubbard said.
AFH provides high-quality services to adults with physical and intellectual challenges. They seek to maximize the abilities and independence skills of people with disabilities. The foundation’s two rehabilitation centers provide opportunities for beneficial work, quality programs and services designed to increase self-dependence, well-being, productivity, and community participation.
The Perry Rehabilitation Center is over half a century old and was in need of some love, according to AFH President and CEO Jim Musick.
The AFH Annual Christmas party in December will be include a ribbon-cutting ceremony this year to commemorate the culmination of all the hard work and the inspiring transformation of Perry Rehabilitation.