A long-standing Carson City institution is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
The Eagle Valley Children’s Home, founded in 1946, recently commemorated the occasion with the dedication of its new garden.
There its residents, family members and staff, along with a representative from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office, released 50 butterflies to celebrate the day and remember former residents of the home for those with severe or profound intellectual disability.
“All the clients and staff got to open the little boxes and let the butterflies fly away,” said Beverly Hennen, executive director.
The garden was designed by Dale Doerr, Lumos & Associates and installed by Garden Shop Nursery in Sparks.
It features two benches, a tree sculpture by a parent of one former resident and 19 bricks laser cut with the names of past clients that are going to soon be used to build a pathway.
The garden attracts owls and goldfinches and provides a respite for staff and residents alike, said Hennen.
Eagle Valley Children’s Home was established by Theresa Frisch, who had a son born with Down Syndrome.
At the time, there were few services in northern Nevada and most families with intellectually disabled children sought treatment in California.
“Families were taking their kids to Davis or the Bay Area and advice from the doctors there was Nevada needs its own place,” said Hennen.
Frisch and several other local families got together to buy what was then a guest ranch for women establishing residency here to file for divorce.
They purchased the ranch house and 210 acres for $45,000 and within a year had the mortgage paid off, thanks in part to fundraising by Bing Crosby and bandleader Spike Jones.
They hired Grace Koster from Hayward, Calif., who brought with her four Nevada children getting care there, to manage the home.
In 1976, a 22 year-old University of Nevada, Reno, graduate, Marsha Monroe, took over as director and was instrumental in getting the home designated as an intermediate care facility, which enabled clients to receive per diem Medicaid reimbursements.
The designation, which came with strict requirements, meant the facility had to provide all kinds of training, including speech and occupational therapy, which it has continued to do today.
It provides what Hennen calls pre-vocational training to most of its clients at a facility on Research Way, which gives them an opportunity to get out and be part of the community as well.
In 1986, the home launched a respite program, which today provides up to 20 hours per month service to 60 families within a 60-mile radius of Carson City.
The program’s 10-person staff visits clients at home to take care of disabled children, and healthy siblings, to give caregivers time away from caregiving.
Hennen joined the respite program in 1990 and took over as executive director of the home from Pamela Smith, who served as director for 19 years.
“At least 12 of us have been here for 20 years or more,” said Hennen, including the dietary supervisor who has worked there for 33 years and the director of nursing who has been with the home for 32 years.
The 84-person staff includes administrators, nurses, aides, therapists, dietary workers, housekeeping, laundry, and maintenance staff and a social worker.
Clients, too, sometimes stay on for years. The home’s oldest resident is 49 years old, having arrived there when he was a few months old. The youngest client is 6 years old.
The number of residents has held steady almost from the start, from about 15 in the beginning to 18 now.
in 2004, a new service building with adjoining 16,400 square foot residential space was built.
The residences include six single-bedrooms and six doubles, all security coded, with recreational and therapy rooms and ramps for traversing the three floors.
The property has been whittled down after land was sold for what has become the expansive Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center as well as the Silver Oak Golf Course.
“As late as 1988 it was just a gravel road,” leading from 395 to the home, before the hospital was built, said Hennen.
Hennen remembers in 1997 the flood washing out part of the road, leaving staff on duty for two days before anyone could get there to relieve them.
Then the hospital came and with it a road and city water service.
“We now have 30 acres and we’ll keep what we have,” she said. “I love this place.”