FY17 Accessibility and Beautification Highlights

Search’s hard working physical plant team does a lot of behind the scenes work to keep Search’s 30+ locations both functional and attractive. We recently sat down to Shawn Kirby, Physical Plant Manager, to find out more about what the physical plant team does.

Q: What are some of physical plants' biggest accomplishments over the past year?

A: We had a long list of big projects that were accomplished this year, but three projects were especially exciting because they were done with a lot of input from the individuals we serve.

- Bathroom renovations at Sycamore house

The bathrooms at our Sycamore home were renovated to make them more accessible to the ladies there. As some of our residents get older, they require accommodations to help them “age in place.” Upgrades that were made to the bathrooms include additional grab bars and step-in showers. This project was made possible thanks to generous CDBG funding from the Village of Mt. Prospect.

Sycamore Bathroom
Bathroom at Sycamore house after renovations

- Accessible landing and ramp at Lorel house

This year we also added an accessible ramp and deck to our Lorel house. This change has made a world of the difference to the women who live in the home. Before this project, the Lorel residents couldn’t access their backyard due to physical barriers (steps) and uneven ground. This project was made possible thanks to generous CDBG funding from the Village of Skokie.

Lorel Deck
New Deck and Ramp at Lorel

- Basement Renovation at New England house

Until this year the basement in our New England home was basically unusable. It was a dark, unfinished space that did not serve the needs of the residents. One of the problems was that the washer and dryer were sitting on a raised floor. To fix this, our team completely renovated the basement, lowered the laundry room floor and built separate storage rooms. Now the women who live in New England are able to independently do laundry and access their belongings. Our team is waiting on input from the women in the home to determine how to finish the rest of the space. Possible uses are an at-home yoga studio or arts and crafts space.

New England Basement Before
New England Basement Before Renovations

New England Basement Before 1
New England Basement Before

New England Basement After 1
New England Basement After

New England Basement After
New England Basement After

Q: What project in Fiscal Year 2017 are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of completely replacing the HVAC system at our Adult Learning site in Lincoln Square, Chicago. This was a “gulp” project because it was a big expense and required getting a huge crane to lift the HVAC units on and off the roof. However, John (CEO), Beth (Executive Director), and our board of directors were able to allocate the funding. The new HVAC has made such an enormous and positive impact on the individuals and staff at that side.

Q: What do you wish people knew about physical plant?

A: I wish people knew how unique it is to have the talent, breadth and depth of the skill set of our team here. Our team of four – myself, Aurel, Joe, and Lazlo– have worked for Search for nearly 60 years combined. The amount of work that we are able to do in-house means that we are able to stretch our budget that much further. Examples of recent custom in-house work include drying and storage racks for our new Visibility Arts space and service bins and jigs to assist with fulfillment work at Planet Access Company Warehouse.

The years of experience among our team also means that everyone has a lot of insight into the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that is something we take into consideration during all of our projects.


Q: What are some new initiatives in physical plant?

A: The biggest change I forsee in the next year is that we are working to embrace technology. This is not only to help us achieve our goals for physical plant but also to help us align better with CQL standards. Technologies like keyless entry and energy efficient devices have great potential for us.

Thank you to Aurel, Joe, Lazlo, and Shawn for your hard work!