YOUNGSTOWN – Richard Phoenix always thought the lot he and his wife owned in the village could be used to build apartments that would bring them some investment income.
On second thought, he decided it would be a better decision to donate the land to an agency that serves adults with developmental and other disabilities.
“This is a very significant donation,” said Jeff Sanderson, executive director of Rivershore Inc.
The 100- by 112-foot lot is on Hinman Road, between Main and Second streets. Sanderson said his agency’s goal is to build a small four-unit apartment building, which would provide a supportive living environment for up to eight senior citizens or adults with disabilities. Older apartment buildings and businesses already surround the vacant lot.
He said Rivershore is in the process of finding funding, but noted that the agency is moving away from the traditional group-home approach. The goal in this location is to build apartments that would fit with the character of the village and best serve residents.
“People associate us with working with adults with developmental disabilities, and that we do to a great degree, but we also support people with other disabilities, and we would like to do more to support seniors,” he said.
“We have an opportunity to build something which will be pleasing to the people who reside there as well as the people who live in the village-at-large,” Sanderson said, noting that all plans would go through the village leadership and they would talk to the community planners about what they have in mind.
Richard Phoenix is a former member of the Youngstown Planning Board, a retired vice president of engineering at Carborundum and president of his own start-up company, Ohm Tek, which made precision electronic parts. He said he originally bought the land with the intention of building rental units. After he retired, he and his wife felt the land would be better used by Rivershore.
“It seemed, at this time of my life, the right thing to do. I’m getting a little old and the economy isn’t really great for building and my real hang up is the Robert Moses [Parkway] is such an uncertain thing that people just don’t want to invest money to move out here,” Phoenix said, referring to an ongoing debate about whether the parkway between Youngstown and Niagara Falls should be removed.
He said Rivershore was their first choice to receive the donation after an employee of his church, St. John’s Episcopal, and a daughter of a friend in the Youngstown Lions Club each were helped by Rivershore.
“Their name came to me because of the people I know,” he said.
Neither Sanderson nor Phoenix knew the specific value of the donation, but Phoenix laughed and said, “It’s nicer to donate than to pay taxes on it.”
The Rivershore board of directors recently honored the couple for their donation, presenting them with a plaque that proclaimed that “their names will be forever linked to all the good deeds that shall come to pass on this land.”
Rivershore Inc, with 140 employees, is one of the largest employers in the Lewiston area and serves people living with disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury. Its main office is on Cayuga Street in the Village of Lewiston, but the agency operates 12 residential properties, nine group homes and three supportive apartments in Niagara County, which provide help with day-to-day living. The organization also provides employment services, life planning services, clinical services, and self-advocacy services.
“The communities in Niagara County have been a great place for people to live and to work and be part of the things happening in their community,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson said the agency’s goal remains helping adults with disabilities as they pursue and achieve a meaningful life.
“These are challenging times for all not-for-profits, so any help can be a difference maker,” he said.