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LISTEN Executive Director Christy Potts discusses its mission, new building

The Grand Forks Herald sat down with LISTEN Executive Director Christy Potts to discuss the nonprofit’s mission, as well as the new LISTEN Center in Grand Forks.

Listen Center
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The LISTEN Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new building at 2100 S. Washington St. in Grand Forks.
Jacob Holley / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks Herald sat down with LISTEN Executive Director Christy Potts to discuss the nonprofit’s mission, as well as the new LISTEN Center in Grand Forks.

Q: What services does LISTEN provide?

A: The services LISTEN provides currently are home- and community-based services. They’re Medicaid-funded through the state of North Dakota. We provide residential support for people living in their own apartments or homes, we provide family support services for children and adults living still with their families and then we also provide day services for adults. That's Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. And that will be in our new building on 2100 South Washington.

Q: How was LISTEN first created?

A: LISTEN started in 1970 in the churches here. It was founded by some church members looking for support with people with disabilities, and then with the closing of the state school in Grafton, a lot of people were moving to Grand Forks. So that's where the Drop-In Community Center really had a huge part to play in offering activities and events for people with disabilities from 1970 throughout what it is today, really. So we're open to people with and without disabilities. We’re truly a community center open to all ages.

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Q: What facilitated the move to build the new building?

A: The reason we wanted a new center is because our current spaces are very outdated and not always accessible for people with disabilities. So our previous space on 624 N. Washington is a split level, and we have a lift in there, so (it’s) an elevator, but it's not categorized (as) an elevator, (it’s) categorized as a lift, and it breaks down a lot. And so if you use a wheelchair or a walker, and our elevator isn't working, you can’t join in any activities because of the split level, so the only thing on the main level is landing. So it was really important to us to come up with a plan to try and get a new space for especially our Drop-In Community Center, but also where we currently hold day services is very outdated. We've been in this space 22 years, and there's not a lot of windows. There's no outdoor space. We currently have a kitchen but no dining room, so people we support are having to pack up all their activities, clean them all up, eat lunch, clean up lunch (and) get all the activities out. So we're really excited for the big (LISTEN) drop-in space and public bathrooms and all of our accessible bathrooms and the new space for the drop-in Community Center, and especially the dining room for our day services in the new building.

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Q: What other amenities does the LISTEN Center have?

A: Some of the great things that we incorporated into the new building is that we built in adult changing tables and all the bathrooms and also ceiling lifts in all the bathrooms. If you work with people with disabilities, you know that it can be very stressful on your body, and so we really try to make the new space very accessible but also user friendly for our staff too. So we're really excited to not have to try and maneuver pall lifts and hoyer lifts in the bathroom to help people. We’re going to have an outdoor fenced-in lawn area for people we support to enjoy the weather, and so we're going to have fake turf in the backyard so we don't have to worry about mud for people who use wheelchairs, and it'll be fenced in and people we support can be out there independently as long as they want throughout the day. So we're excited about that, too.

Q: What does the future of LISTEN look like?

A: Some of the future goals we have at LISTEN are to expand our residential services. I also want to coordinate and hold community education classes about home- and community-based services and the Grand Forks area and the state of North Dakota. I'd love to be able to start having those community educational classes where parents can network with each other and really have someone to reach out to for questions if they're having trouble getting services for their children or people they care about, and so I'm just really excited, in the new building, to have more public events (and) more community events where everyone is welcome and to expand the community reach for LISTEN.

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Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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