LENEXA – When Johnson County Developmental Supports moved into its newly constructed building 25 years ago, the facility did not have a cafeteria.
To make do, administrators eventually retrofitted a break room with equipment designed for a home kitchen and a staff cook prepared lunch for the organization’s clientele workforce, which now includes more than 200 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who provide assembly and packaging services under contract to outside businesses.
“It was just mass chaos at lunch time or break time,” said Lurena Mead, community relations manager.
But now, as the agency’s 40th year winds to a close, staff and clients are celebrating the completion of an $8.5 million renovation of the Mark D. Elmore Center, at 10501 Lackman Road.
The facility bears the name of a long-time executive director, and Mead said discussions about upgrading the building started even prior to Elmore’s death in 2005.
Work actually began about two years ago, forcing some staff to work out of other county buildings, including in the administrative offices of Johnson County Wastewater. The agency held a Nov. 16 open house to show off the new features.
Replacing the makeshift cafeteria, which sat in the center of the old configuration, is an expanded dining area on the west side of the building.
It has access to an outdoor recreation area, which includes walking trails and a small basketball court. In addition, the cafeteria has commercial grade equipment manned by a food-service contractor.
The expanded space also provides greater opportunities for clients to learn restaurant skills they could put to use in outside employment, Mead said.
The renovation of the roughly 50,000-square-foot building was complete, said Operations Director Steve Rinkel.
“We touched everything,” he said.
The work included installing a new heating and air conditioning system and adding more space where staff could meet with clients and their families.
With an upgraded clinic that dispenses about 43,000 doses of medication each month, medical staff now has the capability to provide insulin shots to diabetics. Clients previously had to go to a doctor’s office for that service.
Exercise equipment that used to be in an atrium area, now fits in the clinic.
By replacing individual offices with cubicles, Rinkel said, the agency freed up enough space in the building to move about 35 employees out of nearby leased space.
Not only will that that save about $100,000 a year in lease costs, said Executive Director Maury Thompson, but it also allows for impromptu meetings among staff that can lead to better operations.
“It sounds like such a small thing,” he said, “but I have found it is so significant.”
Thompson said the remodeled building is better suited for serving the types of clients the agency sees.
Many severely disabled clients now live in the community, he said, as opposed to institutions. From a facilities standpoint, Thompson said, that meant among other things that the agency needed bigger restrooms.
Lenexa resident Ron Herford and his wife, Pat O’Bryan, were among the guests at the open house.
O’Bryan’s 28-year-old granddaughter is a client of Johnson County Developmental Supports, known also as JCDS. The granddaughter helps in the cafeteria, and O’Bryan applauded improvements to the work area.
But, she said, the agency was a valuable asset to clients no matter what the facilities were like.
“Where would these people go without JCDS?” she said. “Whether it’s an old building or a new building.”