BY MICHAEL GIBSON MORRIS
TUPELO - After a half century of rehabbing people, the Regional Rehabilitation Center itself needs some serious work, inside and out.
Masonry walls are crumbling; the electrical systems are aging; the plumbing is cranky. But that's not unexpected in a 45-year-old building that has been the center's home since 1963.
It's going to take $2 million to renovate the center, which does not charge for its services.
"This is an organization that asks for very little," said BancorpSouth CEO Aubrey Patterson, who is chairman of a fundraising campaign for the center. "It's time for the community to give something back."
Plans call for new lights, new floors, rewiring, replumbing, new windows, new ceiling and a new exterior facade, said Kay Mathews, the center's executive director.
"It's infrastructure," Mathews said. "Things have deteriorated over 45 years of use."
They're off to good start. Friday, Patterson announced that with grants and donations, they have raised $1.3 million.
"I couldn't be more thrilled with the response," he said.
Mathews estimated the center has helped 150,000 people over its 50 years. The center provides physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, audiology services and early intervention services.
Children and young adults make up about 75 percent of the center's clients. Funding comes from city and county government, area United Way organizations, a state grant and private donations.
"I just don't know of anybody else in the country that provides all these services under one roof for free," Mathews said.
Plans call for very few changes to the layout of the center. The therapy pool will move to a new home in the front of the building. The physical therapy room will grow in size. A set of bathrooms and some offices will be resituated.
But the design of the building and the therapy spaces are still meeting the needs of the therapists and clients and don't need to be changed.
"That's what so amazing," Mathews said. "The wisdom of the founders is astounding."
Plans are to bid the project out and March, move to temporary quarters in March and start work in May.
The work is expected to take nearly a year.
During the construction, Regional Rehab will be relocating to the Cedars building on the Traceway Retirement Community campus in West Tupelo, Mathews said.
The adjacent REACH Center for the Blind will remain in the building.
Contact Daily Journal health reporter Michaela Morris at 678-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.