MUSCATINE, Iowa — Optimae LifeServices, currently at 3500 Harmony Court, will be moving into the former Garfield Elementary School building at 1409 Wisconsin St. in the fall.
Optimae LifeServices, an employee-owned company, has been providing services for individuals with disabilities in Muscatine County for 15 years, since May 1, 2001. Its programs, which include community-based and home health services, are designed to encourage choice, empowerment, and community integration.
“The biggest part of the programming we do is we have 17 sites here in Muscatine where people rent their homes and share homes with each other as housemates and then we bring in the support services for them to be successful living there in their homes. We also do hourly services for a large group of people as well who are in their own homes,” Nancy Nauman, regional director for the Mississippi Bend Region, said.
Ann and Tom Meeker, of Muscatine Downtown Investors, bought the former Garfield school building last fall, and said that Optimae LifeServices will be a perfect fit.
“We were going to decide what to do with that for the community, but when Nancy came around it was an opportunity because they really like to keep the neighborhood happy and that’s what we were after; and that’s what the school system was after when they ended up selling it to us,” Tom Meeker said.
He also said that, although they will be doing some minor renovations before Optimae moves in, they still hope to make the building affordable.
“We approached it reasonable enough that we can have reasonable rent so that they can afford to do this, we feel what they do is really good for the community,” he said.
After Muscatine County decided to sell the building where Optimae LifeServices is currently located, Nauman said they saw an opportunity.
“It kind of created an opportunity for us to think about our future space needs and what we were going to need available for us to continue to grow our programs, so in many ways it ended up being a real opportunity for us,” Nauman said.
The space that will be provided by the new building is one of the most exciting parts, Nauman said, as they will have a large amount of outdoor space for gardens as well as a gym, kitchen, and multi-purpose room to hold activities.
“It”ll give us an opportunity to have a lot more physical activities in our community integration programs, so that will be nice, especially in the winter time we’ll have a lot more opportunity to do a lot of fun activities in the gym and other things that we do for our larger consumer group,” she said.
The renovations that Tom and Ann will be doing to the building include making it more handicap accessible, a necessity that the building Optimae LifeServices is located in currently did not have.
“Our programming is going to be able to grow, and that’s what we’re really excited about with this move, plus we’re excited the building is one story, because we need an accessible building. We have a lot of people with wheelchairs who get services from us so that’s going to make it a lot easier for them,” Nauman said.
Nauman and the Meekers agreed that the Garfield building should continue to be used to serve the community, and with Optimae in the building, that is exactly what will happen.
“We’re looking forward to being a good neighbor and reaching out to our neighbors around the school,” Nauman said.
And she added, “I think the exciting part is that the program is going to be repurposed in a way that is going to continue to make a real contribution to the community, and we’re sure excited to be able to partner with Tom and Ann to do this, we’re familiar with the other important development things they’ve done in this community.”
The Muscatine Community School District's board of education voted in March of 2010 to close the building because of declining enrollment and loss of revenue from the state.