PORTSMOUTH- After a successful Autism Awareness month, one area non-profit is asking for help to keep its operation running.
The Autism Project of Southern Ohio took to Facebook in April to share its financial situation. President Mike Bell and Treasurer Michele King said donations are needed to save their building.
“The pandemic has really hit us hard,” King said in the April 8 video. “We’ve not been able to fundraise, so we need to reach out to the public. We’ve always got so much support from the community.”
Donations of any amount, currently being collected through Venmo, PayPal, Facebook, and physical checks would go to the APSO building on 1018 Waller St. in Portsmouth. Since 2018, the former location of the Haugland Autism Learning Center has served as the 23-year-old project’s home.
As further explained in the clip, the facility includes an enclosed playground and activity rooms such as a library, media room, and playroom.
“The kids just love this place, and you just see the smiles on their faces,” said Bell, APSO president since 2010. “We’re looking for donations to save our building and to give these kids a place to go. 100% goes to this building.”
The pandemic did not keep APSO from hosting its annual Easter egg hunt, where children and their families participated in their outdoor space. In years past, the project has hosted Valentine’s dances and Christmas and Halloween parties.
With almost a month since the Facebook video went out, the Portsmouth Daily Times reached out to Bell to determine the project’s progress in its fundraiser.
”They’ve been going slow,” he said in a Thursday phone interview. “I checked the mail a few times and here in there we received some checks, but I know the video went viral.”
An official goal has not been set for the funds needed, but Bell said generally that APSO would like to cover its $6,000 annual lease payment. Earlier this year, the project received an eviction notice where he said available funds were, fortunately, able to keep them in operation.
In addition to its Quest Club, where children collect badges for good deeds and services, its free summer camp, and participation in Challenger Sports leagues, Bell said APSO fosters a sense of community among the children and parents.
“We have special guest speakers that will come in and talk about IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs) and speech therapy, and just important stuff that parents need to know” he said, the project relying solely on contributions and volunteer work. “They get to talk to other parents that are going through the same thing that they are.”
Approximately 30 families participate in the project, which includes those from Kentucky although the project is based in Portsmouth.
Bell said APSO provides that helping hand these families need, especially to those that have just learned that their child is autistic. Sometimes that includes kids 4 or 5 years old that just been diagnosed.
When these parents have questions, as they often do, Bell said other families are always willing to answer.
“I guarantee you that someone else in the group has went through that and will assist them,” he said.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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