The new Activity/Community Center will expand Peppermint Ridge’s programming.

Residents and staff at UCC-related Peppermint Ridge in Corona, Calif., are preparing for the grand opening of a new Activity/Community Center later this winter. The center is the result of nearly three years of planning, preparation, and fundraising and will benefit not only the “Ridgers,” as residents are called, but the wider Corona community.

“We envision that the Activity/Community Center will be utilized by the community at large, and that it can serve as a gathering place for people to learn, be nourished, build relationships, and explore their interests,” says Danette McCarns, executive director.

Peppermint Ridge is a CHHSM member that provides care and support to persons with disabilities. It has a diverse activity program for residents. But as the Ridge has grown, the current facilities have become too small. Thanks to community support, Peppermint Ridge secured the necessary funds for the new modular building.

“The Activity/Community Center came about initially because our programming has grown so much over the last few years,” says Tracy Mauser, director of development. “There just wasn’t enough space to accommodate the variety of programs offered.”

Artist’s rendering of the inside of the new center.

The new center is approximately twice the size of the current space, and includes ADA restrooms, a kitchen, a media center, and an accordion wall that allows for either large gatherings or smaller classes and meeting rooms. The center also has computer and internet hookups.

“This new space has allowed us to expand our selection and occurrence of activities and classes,” says Althea Wagoner, communications specialist. “For example, right now we offer ‘Intro to Art’ twice a month. With the larger space, that will grow to four times a month.”

And those expanded offerings will also benefit the local community. “The Activity/Community Center will give the Ridgers more space and a greater variety of classes,” says McCarns. “Our hope is to offer a vibrant activity program to others in the larger community in the future.”

In addition, the space will be used for staff programming while Ridgers are at work or participating in day programs.

Among the many activities offered for Ridgers are yoga, art, music, journaling, dances, gardening, birthday parties, and a Volunteer Club that works to give back to the local community. Ridgers also have opportunities for therapeutic horseback riding, CrossFit classes, classes at the Kids Rock Fender Center for the Performing Arts, and other activities at various venues in the city of Corona. The center is just one way the Ridge can give back to the community.

To date, Peppermint Ridge has raised some $302,000 for the center through gifts and pledges. It continues to raise funds for furnishings, program supplies and teachers. The Ridge also received a Community Development Block Grant to help offset lease payments for the next three years.

With hope and careful planning, ground was broken on the new Activity Center.

The new Activity/Community Center will open just in time for Peppermint Ridge’s year-long celebration of its 60th anniversary.

“Everything we do this year will reflect the 60th anniversary,” says Mauser. Anniversary plans include a then-and-now photo exhibit, and a focus on the strong foundation set by founders Bob and Mary Jeffery.

“It is because of that strong foundation that we are able to thrive today,” Mauser adds.

McCarns calls the new Activity/Community Center the best of both worlds. “Ridgers live and are active participants in the city of Corona and surrounding areas,” she says. “With our campus site and now the addition of the Activity/Community Center, we will always have a place to come home to for gatherings of family and friends, specialized classes, parties and other activities. Who wouldn’t want that?”

CHHSM member Peppermint Ridge serves almost 100 residents in 11 homes throughout Corona, Calif. In addition to providing care, community, and pathways to active citizenship, Peppermint Ridge helps empower residents to drive their own desires and goals, providing them with a greater sense of independence and fulfillment.