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The Halifax-Plympton Reporter, by Casey Meserve

The Kennedy Donovan Center Moves to Kingston

January 16, 2010

KINGSTON – After renting a building in Plymouth for 20 years, a center that helps mentally disabled children is moving into its own building in Kingston.

The Kennedy Donovan Center, founded by the woman who took care of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's nine children, will move its offices and early childhood center to Kingston this fall, according to representatives. The Planning Board approved a special permit for the site, located at the corner of Crescent and Smiths Lane. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 22.

The Kennedy Donovan Center was founded by Luella Hennessey Donovan, who was once the nurse for all nine Kennedy children, including future President John, and future Senators Robert and Ted. She also cared for Rosemary Kennedy, who was mentally disabled. Donovan founded the center for people like Rosemary.

After years of conversations with Rose, who felt badly that Rosemary couldn't participate and live in her community, Luella decided to open a center that would help children like Rosemary and their parents learn how to cope with their disabilities. In 1969, at 59-years-old after earning her nursing degree from Boston College, Luella opened Kennedy Center for Handicapped Children one of the first community-based educational and therapeutic programs for young children with a grant from her former employer's foundation. When Luella retired in her mid 80s in the 1990s, the board of directors changed the name to the Kennedy-Donovan Center.

Ann Buono, the vice president of development and public relations at the center, said the Kennedy-Donovan Center provides services for more than 5,000 individuals and families each year. Locally, the center serves 850 families through its early intervention program, and 100 local families through its prevention program for first-time parents under the age of 21. The Greater Plymouth program serves in Carver, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Marshfield, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton and Rockland.

Services are provided to children under 3 who have or at risk of developmental delays or disabilities. The center has developmental specialists, physical occupation and speech therapists, and educators who work with parents and their children.

The decision to move to a new location was related to cost and space requirements, Buono said.

“We've been renting space in the Plymouth Industrial Park for 20 years, and one of the things we can't control is our rent costs,” Buono said. “As costs continue to rise, we had a large increase in rental space last year. What was obvious to us was we could build and have our own facility for the same amount of money.”

The other piece was space. The new facility includes office space for a 35-member staff as well as play space for children and an area for parents as well.

“We're better able to meet our space needs if we build the facility ourselves,” Buono said.

The two-story, 7,800-square-foot facility received a $5.75 million bond from MassDevelopment, the state's economic development agency, and financing by Webster Band for its construction, Buono said.

The center state funding for 12 projects from MassDevelopment this year, including a number of group homes the center plans to purchase and renovate. $1.3 million of the $5.75 million will go to the Greater Plymouth Program Center. Because the center is a not-for-profit organization, it does not pay property taxes.

© Copyright 2010 The Halifax-Plympton Reporter.