Light House organization finds a new home in New London

New London — April and Dominic Dipollina of Waterford said they rest easy when their daughter is with the staff at the Light House, an organization providing support services for individuals with a broad range of intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities.

The couple’s 30-year-old daughter, Iris, has a host of disabilities related to a prenatal stroke. She is a daily visitor to the Light House Community Campus, an adult day program which recently moved from its Groton location to a larger space in New London.

The Community Campus provides life and vocational skills, activities, recreation and — perhaps most importantly, Light House Executive Director Kassidy Brown said — ample opportunity for individuals to have experiences out in the community. The nonprofit also provides a community transition program, respite services, evening social groups and opportunities for volunteering. The clients are better for it, Brown said.

“This is her work,” April Dipollina said of her daughter’s visits to the Community Campus. “Like anyone else, she needs a purpose in life, to be able to get out in the community, to socialize and be part of southeastern Connecticut. This affords her a great life.”

Her husband, Dominic, agreed and said “it’s about what’s best for her.”

All three of the Dipollinas were on hand Thursday for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the New London location at 125 Shaw St. Clients, some of whom are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, were on hand to meet guests with smiles and handshakes.

Brown said the move to New London from a rented space in Groton allows for expansion of space to meet the needs of 22 adult clients who visit the campus. The services are mostly funded through the state Department of Developmental Services, but Brown said the organization purchased the building in July on its own. It's the first time the organization purchased a commercial property.

The nearly 10,000-square foot building, former home of medical offices, was vacant for several years and renovations were completed before the opening last month. The group purchased the building from Dime Bank for $635,000, public records show. U.S. Properties represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.

"As much as this building is for us, it is also for the individuals that we serve and the staff who dedicates themselves to their work each and every day. It is because of them that I am excited to see what the future holds for our organization," Brown said in a statement.

The move to New London makes sense because the Light House already collaborates with local organization for training opportunities and job support. Local partners include Fiddleheads, the Community Meal Center and Garde Arts Theater.

“What better place to lay our roots,” Brown said.

Harry Watson, president of the Light House board of directors, called it an exciting time for Light House, considering it was searching for a new space for the past several years.

“Thank you, New London, for welcoming us into the community,” Watson said.

State Sen. Paul Formica, co-chair of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, said the Light House is a dedicated service provider and critical for improving the quality of life of participants in its programs.

“This is really what we in the community need to support,” he said.

Other attendants at Thursday’s ceremony included New London Mayor Michael Passero and state Rep. Chris Soto, D- New London.

In addition to the state-contracted adult services, the Light House operates state-approved private schools in Niantic and offers residential and transitional services for about 100 individuals throughout the year. One of its schools offers special education for individuals ages 7 to 21 and addresses special, emotional, behavioral and academic needs. The other school is for adults and geared toward providing skills for independent living.

The Light House was founded in 1992 by Kathy Greene and opened as a private special education school.

g.smith@theday.com

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