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New center in Gloucester offers “warmer” space for people with disabilities

Though the Lewis B. Puller Center moved in April, VersAbility Resources held a ribbon cutting for the new location on Thursday, June 27, 2024.
Nick McNamara / WHRO
Though the Lewis B. Puller Center moved in April, VersAbility Resources held a ribbon cutting for the new location on Thursday, June 27, 2024.

After more than 20 years in its prior location, VersAbility Resources moved to a new Gloucester location.

Leaders and patrons of VersAbility Resources celebrated a new Gloucecster location that CEO Kasia Grzelkowski calls “the future of services” for adults with disabilities on the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

“We are absolutely delighted and beyond excited,” Grzelkowski said of the new home for the Lewis B. Puller Center. “This beautiful, new building that we’ve renovated really does have the right environment that represents what we feel people with disabilities deserve.”

The nonprofit touts itself as a leading service provider for people of all ages with disabilities throughout Hampton Roads. In addition to robust employment programs, VersAbility Resources offers residential support and day support services – a major focus of its Puller Center.

“Day support services basically means that we offer a program where (people with varying disabilities) come during the day and we help support them, just learning and training on different skill activities,” said Vice President of Programming and Operations LaKisa Ward.

Skill training is individualized and can range from working on hand-eye coordination to knowing how to ask for help in a store. Ward said the point is to “help enhance their lives, but also help them gain a different level of independence.”

Originally opened in 2001, VersAbility found that over time that its prior Puller Center location at 6632 Main Street left something to be desired.

The 15,000 square feet facility was a “funky building,” according to Grzelkowski. It contained a large industrial space, which has become less necessary as the needs and desires of VersAbility’s patrons evolved.

It also had two levels, which made utilizing the upstairs space more of a challenge for folks with physical limitations.

“It’s functional as it is for what we do, but it’s not the perfect fit,” said Director of Facilities Aries Sumalnap. “This is the perfect fit for what we do.”

While the new Puller Center location at 6750 Main Street Suite 100B is about a third of the size at just under 5,000 square feet, Grzelkowski called it “warmer,” “more welcoming” and better optimized.

“There really is boundless, different types of things we can do to keep their interest, keep them learning, keep them growing and keep them as very active participants in their community,” she said.

In addition to the new location, VersAbility is expanding its programming at the Puller Center – particularly its community engagement programming.

“They interact in the community and are able to have lives like yours or ours outside of normal hours,” said Ward. “They can go to concerts, and plays, and music in the park; all kinds of exciting things.”

The community engagement programs teach some of the same life skills taught in day support, but in a “non-traditional manner.”

“The whole purpose is being able to learn how to be independent and speak to others in a community setting,” Ward said.

Just minutes from the old location, Grzelkowski is optimistic that the new Puller Center will continue to be an asset for patrons for years to come.

“This significant investment in the future of services marks a new beginning for those we serve throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck communities."

Nick is a general assignment reporter focused on the cities of Williamsburg, Hampton and Suffolk. He joined WHRO in 2024 after moving to Virginia. Originally from Los Angeles County, Nick previously covered city government in Manhattan, KS, for News Radio KMAN.

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