VERNON TOWNSHIP — After relocating five times in a quarter-century, a local social services provider has found its forever home.
The future of Touch-Stone Solutions Inc. is bright, according to Executive Director Nichole Guthrie.
“We’ve definitely been growing the last three years,” Guthrie said this week. “We’re super-excited to be in a position where we were able to finally purchase this building, and we’re excited for our staff and our clients to feel like we’re not going anywhere.”
The permanent location for the nonprofit that serves residents of Crawford and Venango counties with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be familiar to clients, since Touch-Stone has leased it since 2015, and it will be familiar to many others as the former location of the Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville barracks. Though no physical move will be required for this transition, the move from tenant to owner is a significant milestone because of the sense of security it provides, according to Guthrie.
That sense of security has not always as present as it might have been, Guthrie explained, because Touch-Stone, founded as Veos in 1993 and later known as Dresden, has changed names and locations repeatedly.
“People would find us and say, ‘We didn’t know where you are — we thought you were here, we thought you were there,’” she said. “A consistent location — in the grand scheme of things, it may not be a lot, but for a business it is.”
The 10,000-square-foot building at 11176 Murray Road sits on 3.5 acres and was purchased on Oct. 29 for $710,000, according to online county records. With Touch-Stone’s previous lease due to expire at the end of 2020, the nonprofit was intent on finding a permanent solution.
“It’s nice that we finally bought a building because it gives Touch-Stone a home finally,” said Executive Assistant Lisa Kicher, who has been with the firm for 21 years, three names and at least as many locations. “It gives us more standing in the community. We’re more stable, we’re growing, and we have a home.”
Stability for autistic clients or those with intellectual disabilities is an important boon, but it isn’t the only benefit. With approximately 75 employees and 40 clients engaged in a wide range of services, from full-time to day programs and autism services, according to Marketing Coordinator Kristin Deezik, space is a factor as well.
For instance, Guthrie said, parking to accommodate so many clients and employees at a location in downtown Meadville would not have been feasible, but the Murray Road location has more than 50 parking spaces. The grounds also include lawns, basketball hoops and other amenities for outdoor activities. And with so much space available inside the building, Touch-Stone has room to grow.
“We are using most of it, but have quite a bit of unused space,” Guthrie said. That unused space already has Guthrie thinking about possibilities for the future.
“With this space,” she said, “we have an almost unlimited potential for what we can do.”
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.