AURORA | The drive from Aurora through snarled Interstate 70 traffic and into northeast Denver is a chore few locals relish.
For local disabled residents hoping to make their way to Laradon, a nonprofit that serves adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, hopping on RTD’s Access-A-Ride from Aurora to Laradon’s campus in Globeville is often a 45-minute trek at least, and that’s just one way.
“Generally speaking, it’s going to be three hours out of their day,” Donna Thurston, director of day and employment services for Laradon.
It used to be three hours out of their day, that is.
Laradon opened a satellite office this fall at East Mississippi Avenue and South Chambers Road in Aurora, their first location away from the main Laradon campus at 5100 Lincoln St. in Denver.
Laradon has a long an storied history in the metro area, providing educational, employment and numerous other services to Front Range residents for generations.
The small space in a shopping center on southwest corner of the intersection will act as a hub for Laradon, a meeting place where staffers can meet the Aurora adults who rely on their services and from where they can depart on their daily outings, including trips to libraries and recreation centers.
“The whole purpose is to keep people in the community,” Thurston said last week during an open house at the new location.
The goal for the Aurora location is to have five staffers and 25 disabled individuals participating, Thurston said.
The bulk will be people from Aurora, she said, people who maybe opted not to sign up for Laradon’s services in the past because of the distance, or people who used them sparingly.
One longtime Laradon participant enjoying the new location is Robby Wagner.
Wagner, who is in his 50s, wasn’t certain how long he has been coming to Laradon, but knew it had been a while.
“A really long time” he said with a grin while taking a break from making crafts during the open house.
The schedule at the Aurora location is already packed. On Mondays the group heads to the Ronald McDonald House where they clean the children’s playroom. On Tuesday, they go to ARC and pull empty hangers off the clothes racks. Wednesdays see them at the Aurora Public Library cleaning children’s board books, On Thursday, they pick up trash near Utah Park as part of the adopt-a-street program.
The best of those trips, Wagner said, are the Tuesday outings to ARC.
Thurston said Laradon is treating the Aurora location as a pilot program for now, but they have high hopes for it.
“Instead of saying ‘no, there’s only one Laradon, and you have to come all the way across town,’ it’s another option,” she said.
If the Aurora location works out, Thurston said Laradon would consider other satellite options, possibly on the west side of the metro area.