Group home for the holidays

Molly Anne Dalton was born on June 7, 1963, the second child of Tom Dalton and Rosemary Dunn Dalton. Just 11 months younger than her brother Tom, Molly has bright red hair like her younger sister, Brigid, revealing their Irish heritage.

Molly was born with profound mental retardation. In the early 1960s, the Daltons were strongly advised by their family doctor to "put Molly away" in an institution. This is what friends expected as well. The Daltons lived in Michigan at that time so they visited the State Home in Plymouth where Rosemary said they saw 60 or so children with serious brain injuries being watched over by two attendants.

"It was horrific" Rosemary said.

So they took Molly home.

Not only did Molly live in her family home, but she and the Dalton family experienced many "firsts" by living in the community, going to pre-school, riding the bus, and attending mainstream public school. So it is no surprise that Rosemary Dunn Dalton also founded Ashland Supportive Housing in 1982 in Southern Oregon.

When Molly was in her last year at Ashland High School, her teacher, Phil Miller, asked Rosemary what her plans were for Molly at graduation. Miller said, "There's no place for Molly to go other than to live at home."

The Daltons wanted some level of independence for all members of their family, so Rosemary began a journey to start a home for people with disabilities.

In the early 1980s, the Fairview Training Center in Salem was seeking community-based homes to place its clients as the result of a state mandate.

"The remarkable thing about ASH's creation is that they took people out of Fairview with very significant disabilities, driven, I think, by Rosemary's passion and Phil's excellent track record as a teacher for that population," said Roger Hassenpflug, CEO of Living Opportunities. "I remember the staff at Fairview thinking we must not know what we were asking when we insisted on meeting people with truly severe disabilities &

no other organization was doing that then. That first ASH project really set a tone for other people with similar levels of disabilities, who were not being considered for community opportunities at that time. I think the project paved the way for others to be considered and get the chance to move &

often resulting in reuniting people with families."

Rosemary named the home at ASH the Pinel House, which became home to nine former clients of Fairview, plus Molly, in 1982 at B and Fifth Streets in Ashland. It was the first home of its kind in Southern Oregon and one of the first in the state.

In 2006, ASH was able to split ten residents out of the old Pinel House into two newly acquired homes. ASH now includes three homes, Pinel, Miller and Lindley, with five residents each, all within walking distance in the Nevada Street neighborhood.

Four of the original residents are still with ASH; residents range in age from 39 to 72. Some have immediate family close by. ASH teams with Living Opportunities to provide job development services so that all residents either work or attend daily training activities with local employers like Cropper Medical, Pro Tools, and Shop 'N Kart. Since most ASH residents are non-verbal, the staff is responsible for discerning the kinds of activities they will enjoy. ASH caregivers strive to make sure that the residents are able as much as possible to lead full and satisfying lives. The ASH team runs Camp Low Echo each summer at Lake of the Woods where for one week, resident campers can go swimming, boating, roast weenies, and join in other outdoor activities with assistance

Rep. Peter Buckley attended the ASH Open House held in early December. Impressed by the dedication of staff, and quality of life for residents, Buckley spoke at length with Executive Director, Sue Crader, about reaching the Legislature to ensure funding and supports from the state for sustainability.

"I'll personally arrange a meeting with the Department of Human Services," Buckley said.

Although some residents do earn income for their personal needs, ASH is reliant on funding from the state for operating expenses, and to provide a living wage for caregivers.

"Keeping a staff of dedicated, quality caregivers is our highest priority here at ASH," Crader said. "It is one of the core values of our agency. This is why we are able to keep our staff when they might find the money more attractive somewhere else. Cost-of-living increases from the state have not kept pace with true cost-of-living increases."

The organization employs 35 caregivers including three administrators. Staffing for each house runs from one to four caregivers, depending on the time of day when residents are at work. An employee stays overnight in each house. Staff representative, Stephanie Kwiatkowski says on behalf of her co-workers that "ASH is a great place to work. This organization really cares about clients and staff. That's why we stay here." The employee turn-over rate at ASH is about half of industry trends.

The state provides a dollar amount to ASH for each resident, based on their year of entry into the program. For some clients, this is a rate established in 1982 with nominal cost of living adjustments approximately every two years. The state approved a 14 percent increase to the rate for comprehensive 24 hour residential services, and a 10 percent increase for day activities and supported living effective . These are the first significant increases since the mid-90s when Fairview was in the process of major downsizing. The state also approved two, 2.1 percent cost of living adjustments for caregivers effective on July — in both 2007 and 2008.

There were previously no COLA changes after 2000 until a minor bump in 2005. The prevailing starting wage for caregivers in the Rogue Valley area is between $8.25 and $9 an hour with varying medical benefit packages provided by agencies.

"When my eyes turn down for the last time, I'm comforted to know that Molly will be so well taken care of, and frankly, that she won't be a burden to her brother and sister," said Tom Dalton.

Tom Dalton Jr. calls Molly his angel, which is very apparent when he walks into the room with his sister and dad. "Molly has a very happy life".

is on the Board of Directors at Ashland Supportive Housing and can be reached at To make a tax-deductible contributions to ASH can be sent to Ashland Supportive Housing and Community Outreach, P.O. Box 3536, Ashland OR 97520.

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