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Apartment complex for autistic adults opens in Phoenix

PHOENIX -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Wednesday at a newly-refurbished apartment complex where young adults with autism will have a chance for more independence.

The 29 Palms apartments near 48th Street and McDowell Road were built in 1963. They were refurbished in a year-long project involving the Foundation for Senior Living, First Place AZ and the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.

"This property that is opening (Wednesday) is co-locating 15 apartments for seniors and six two-bedroom apartments with young adults with autism," said Denise Resnik, co-founder of SARRC.

The apartments will be completely furnished by Del Sol Furniture. The Foundation for Senior Living will provide each unit with specially-designed technology and communications equipment that will help the patients keep in touch with their families.

The six young autistic adults will be part of the First Place Academy's Independent Living Program, which is run by First Place AZ and SARRC. Their rent will be paid through their tuition. The program is patterned after the Taft College Transition Program in California. The founder and creator of that program, Jeff Ross, recently retired, but has relocated to Phoenix to become First Place AZ's executive director.

Resnik said is has been a 20-year dream to open a place like 29 palms. She said they have been looking far and wide for a suitable location.

"This is a result of evaluating 100 properties across the country, and building toward a bigger plan and a greater vision for families in terms of where their adults can live."

A larger property that will house an academy for students, supported housing and apartments for residents, and a 10,000-square-foot leadership institute is in the planning stages.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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