CLARKS SUMMIT — From an old Fisher-Price cash register to a stuffed Elmo figure to a mini trampoline with handlebars, the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Children’s Center has it all. The building at 423 Center St. may look ordinary on the outside with its grey siding, red bricks and glass double doors, but inside and down a hallway are two rooms which are anything but ordinary. Filled with shelves of toys, they emanate every color of the rainbow.
“We always tell people we can rival the North Pole with the toys we have,” said executive director Sarah Drob, with a chuckle.
Unfortunately, throughout the years since the UCP purchased the property in the mid-1980s, there were days when it resembled a melted North Pole with toys floating in a muddy ocean. On multiple occasions, with heavy rain and area flooding, came a lower level filled with water — too much for three pumps to handle, Drob said.
After the loss of at least two furnaces and two water heaters and a total of more than $350,000 worth of water damage, the UCP is conducting a capital campaign to help raise $1.7 million to demolish the tri-level building and re-build a single-level structure. The new center will be constructed on the old footprint, but above the water table.
Drob described the project as “a reconfiguration and better use of the space.”
The Helping Hands Learning Center rents a portion of the building not occupied by the UCP. Other rooms are used for UCP programs and office space. Much of the building, however, remains empty or unusable due to the flooding tendency.
The rooms often compared to Santa Claus’ hometown are used for the UCP’s Lekotek and Compuplay programs.
The many toys, however, are not only used in those two rooms, or even just in the center.
The title “Lekotek” was generated by the nonprofit National Lekotek Center and comes from two Swedish words, “lek,” which means “play,” and “tek,” which is “library.” And that is what the program is all about. Children who have developmental disabilities come to the center for play sessions and play groups where they learn to and through play. When they go home, they can “check out” toys to take with them and return the next time they visit, like they would books at a library.
“Lekotek makes the world of play accessible to children with all types of disabilities and levels of abilities,” explains the UCP of NEPA’s website.
The Comuplay program, which is also for children with disabilities, and the Comuplay camps, for children both with and without disabilities, operate with the same objectives as Lekotek, using computer activities and adapted equipment.
Drob summed it up, “It’s all about learning through play. …It’s a very interactive program.”
Those wishing to make monetary donations to , the new Children’s Center may do so online at crowdrise.com/ucpnepa, by phone at 570-347-3357 or by mailing a check to 425 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA, 18503.