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Creating an opportunity to live independently, build a future

Covey, in partnership with FVTC students, recently opened its third home in Neenah

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June 3, 2024

NEENAH – Covey, a nonprofit organization devoted to creating opportunities for adults with disabilities, recently opened its third Adult Family Home (AFH) in Neenah on Woodhaven Lane.

These homes, Tyler Jagiello – marketing and public relations coordinator at Covey – said, give individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live independently, while also receiving the care and support they need.

“Moving out on your own is a huge milestone, and Covey’s AFHs are here to help our participants achieve this goal with more comfort and ease,” he said.

Jagiello said Covey partnered with construction students from Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) to build the Finch House, “because each AFH must be crafted with care.”

“This was an incredibly valuable experience for the students to gain tangible skills and also to meet the residents of the AFH,” he said. “This project allowed students to open their eyes to the importance of accessibility in housing, such as zero entry, easy-access door handles, wheelchair-accessible showers, wider halls and doorways and grab bars,” he said.

Jagiello said the new AFH houses four Covey participants, as well as a 24/7 caregiver.

“Our primary goal is to help our participants live their lives to their fullest potential,” he said.

The Finch House

Ben Fouts, a construction instructor at FVTC, said it took his students about a year to complete the Finch House.

“Every year, our program builds a house,” he said. “Traditionally, we build for (the college’s) foundation – it’s a spec house, so when it sells, the money goes back into the foundation that funds scholarships for the school. This one was a bit different because we worked with Covey on everything.”

Fouts said working with Covey on the project “was awesome.”

“It was a great experience, and there is nothing that would deter us from doing it again,” he said.

A new resident of the Finch house, left, thanks students from Fox Valley Technical College for their work on the house. Submitted Photo

The house, Fouts said, has four bedrooms, two and a half baths and is about 2,000 square feet.

It comes complete with landscaping and is furnished.

‘It’s a big deal’

Pam Schultz, CEO at Covey, said the Finch House was built thanks to many people.

“It doesn’t always seem like a big deal to open a new home, but in this case, it’s a big deal,” she said. “In 2019, there were almost 5,000 people with disabilities in Wisconsin waiting for a safe, affordable and comfortable home.”

In Wisconsin, Schultz said, 25% of people with disabilities are living with family members older than 60.

“That’s a difficult task to ask an adult that age to take care of another adult living with disabilities,” she said. “With the Finch House, we are celebrating providing a new home for four individuals.”

Schultz said the next goals for the Finch House include moving furniture in, setting up the house and putting in the landscaping.

Dan Hereth, the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services, said, “he knows quality when he sees it, and this house is of high quality.”

It took students at FVTC about a year to complete the Finch House. Submitted Photo

“The Finch House is a great home,” he said. “But, the work the students did goes beyond a piece of molding or sheetrock – it’s about supporting the lives and the care folks need.”

Mary Schellinger, Covey board of directors president, said she is passionate about what Covey does – and this home is an example of that.

“It’s fostering new levels of independence for our residents and a new sense of safety and security for their families, knowing they’ll be in good hands,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see this come to fruition. It was a lot of hard work to get where we are.”

Student perspectives

Samantha Sandoval, a student in FVTC’s residential construction building program, said being involved in the Finch House project was rewarding.

“I was excited building this house, especially for Covey,” she said. “The things we’ve done have been an accomplishment, and personally, I developed a ton of skills. Seeing my classmates build their skills has been rewarding, too.”

Mary Schellinger, left, Covey board of directors president, and Chris Matheny, president of FVTC, cut the ribbon for the Finch House. Rich Palzewic Photo

Sandoval, who is from Appleton, said she has one semester left before she graduates.

“I worked on the roof and siding and could tell you what parts of the house I worked on,” she said. “We did all the interior work – drywall, trim and doors. We stained the doors ourselves. I have to give the interior design team props, too – they did a great job.”

Though the majority of construction workers were male, Sandoval said feels right at home in the industry and at FVTC, because her dad owns Sandoval Contracting & Remodeling. 

“That’s how I got into the construction field,” she said. “We specialize in exterior work like the siding and roof. That’s my plan – to work there and help keep the business going.”

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