Ch­ester­wye to re­build house de­stroyed by fire in Jan­uary

Record Observer - - News - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­

GRASONVILLE — On Fri­day morn­ing, Aug. 26, Ch­ester­wye, the long­time fa­cil­ity to help adults with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties learn life skills and be­come more pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens, held a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for a new house to place one of the res­i­dences that burned down dur­ing the early morn­ing hours of Jan. 22, 2016.

That morn­ing at 4:19, Ch­ester­wye Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor De­bra Langseth re­ceived a call stat­ing that the home named for the late Dr. Harry Rhodes and his wife, Creighton, was on fire. She was no­ti­fied by staff mem­ber Shonee Moore, who was on duty that night. Shonee, per­son­ally saw to it that the four men liv­ing in the Rhodes house were safely evac­u­ated. No one was in­jured. The Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment re­sponded swiftly, but the house was fully in­volved when they ar­rived and deemed a to­tal loss.

Since then, with in­sur­ance ad­just­ments, plans for the new res­i­dence have been un­der­way. Con­struc­tion of the new Rhodes home be­gan Mon­day, Aug. 29, as a con­tract has been ac­cepted.

Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Langseth gave a brief sum­mary of the events of the fire in Jan­uary, which was also fol­lowed with the be­gin­ning of the “Bliz­zard of 2016” that af­ter­noon. More than a foot of snow fell on the re­mains of the house that day, im­me­di­ately de­lay­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the cause of the fire, which re­mains un­de­ter­mined, ac­cord­ing to Ch­ester­wye Foun­da­tion Chair­man Wheeler Baker.

“I’ve never been told what caused the fire!” he said. “As far as I know, the cause re­mains un­known.”

Langseth in­tro­duced Baker to the nearly 100 peo­ple in at­ten­dance at the ground­break­ing. Baker gave a brief his­tory of Ch­ester­wye. He pointed to Bobby Ann Nash, who was in the au­di­ence, thank­ing her for her help in found­ing Ch­ester­wye along with the late Dr. Harry Rhodes, former Queen Anne’s County Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools, many years ago. Baker also rec­og­nized Queen Anne’s Com­mis­sion­ers Mark Anderson and Jack Wil­son, who were both present.

He said, “The county com­mis­sion has been with us from day one of Ch­ester­wye. With­out the com­mis­sion’s sup­port, this place to help peo­ple who need help would never have hap­pened!”

Anderson said, “This is the be­gin­ning of a very big year ahead for Ch­ester­wye. First, this ground-break­ing of the new Rhodes house, and con­struc­tion of the house be­gins Mon­day. Next, the new Ch­ester­wye res­i­den­tial house that’s been ap­proved for State Street in Stevensville. I’m most proud of how the res­i­dents on and around State Street have ac­cepted this new house there with open arms! It speaks well of the pur­pose of Ch­ester­wye and the peo­ple that live in that com­mu­nity.”

Former Rhodes house res­i­dents Brian Matthews, Ed­die Mur­phy, John Sim­mons and Richard Zaleski all par­tic­i­pated in the ground-break­ing cer­e­mony, us­ing shov­els, along with Com­mis­sion­ers Anderson and Wil­son, and Ch­ester­wye staff mem­ber Kathleen Baker.

Langseth also rec­go­nized both Wal­mart and Kmart for do­nat­ing cloth­ing to the four men, who had to move to the Sleep Inn in Grasonville for 40 days un­til other liv­ing ar­range­ments could be found.

She said, “All’s they had were the pa­ja­mas they were wear­ing at the time of the fire!”

The de­sign for the new Rhodes house were posted for every­one to see dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

Langseth said, “The new house will have a fire sprin­kler sys­tem that is now re­quired for all new homes built in the state of Mary­land. Also, the in­te­rior of the house will have more space to make it pos­si­ble for any­one in a wheelchair to be able to move around in­side the house with no prob­lems, es­pe­cially in the kitchen.”

The same de­sign will be in the used for the new Ch­ester­wye home that will be built on State Street in Stevensville within the next year.


Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Rhodes house ground­break­ing cer­e­mony, from the left, Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers Jack Wil­son and Mark Anderson, former Rhodes house res­i­dents John Sim­mons, Brian Matthews (mostly blocked), Richard Zaleski, and Ed­die Mur­phy, Ch­ester­wye staff mem­ber Kathleen Baker, Ch­ester­wye founder Bobby Ann Nash, Ch­ester­wye Foun­da­tion Chair­man Wheeler Baker and Ch­ester­wye Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor De­bra Langseth. The cer­e­mony took place at Ch­ester­wye, Fri­day morn­ing, Aug. 26.


The de­sign of the new Rhodes house cur­rently under con­struc­tion at Ch­ester­wye. The build­ing de­sign has hand­i­cap ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ev­ery out­side door, and much more space in­side for any­one who may be lim­ited to a wheelchair, in­clud­ing in the kitchen and bath­rooms. The same model home will be used for the new house that will be built for the Ch­ester­wye at State Street in Stevensville.

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