A photo of a large crowd with a man in the middle cutting a red ribbon with oversized scissors

KEENE – At Community Resources for Justice’s ACTIVELife program, giving individuals space to spread out is bringing them closer together.

The program, which serves adults with developmental disabilities from Keene and the surrounding area, recently opened a 1,400-square-foot expansion, nearly doubling the physical space and adding room for participants to enjoy enhanced services. Some extra breathing room at the formerly cramped space on Marlboro Street is also creating a more laid-back, social vibe.

“It used to be almost like being in a full elevator,” said Charles Paul Richwine, community participation supervisor at ACTIVELife. “People are much happier now. They’re interacting more and it’s more social.”

A table with two chairs, art supplies and two paintings on easels

At a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony in November, participants and staff showed off the new space and talked about their favorite parts – the added room to work on setting personal goals, have meals, and do arts and crafts.

Keene Mayor Kendall Lane officially cut the ribbon, surrounded by CRJ staff and ACTIVELife participants. Lane congratulated the crowd on the new space and encouraged them to celebrate achievements, large and small.

“You do have successes and those successes are really valuable and important,” he said. “The community appreciates it and I appreciate it.”

CRJ President and CEO John Larivee echoed the mayor’s call for celebration.

“This new space provides an environment that welcomes and supports the individuals to obtain their personal goals,” Larivee said.  “It will allow CRJ to serve more individuals and to provide them with more opportunities for learning, training, and developing job skills.”

A foosball table against a wall near a table with a puzzle and some musical instruments

ACTIVELife supports about 20 individuals with specialized services to maximize their independence andparticipation in the community. Each individual is paired with a direct support professional, who helps them find and get to work or volunteer opportunities, socialize outside of their home, and work on personal goals, like exercising and improving handwriting and reading skills. The program serves as a central location where participants start and end their day, enjoy activities, and work on some of their goals.

The program is about 20 years old and moved to its current location three years ago after having to move out of a larger space when parking was no longer available. The tight quarters meant there was little room for activities or personal space. Staff shared a tiny cramped office that also doubled as the nurse’s room and a computer lab. The program had to reach out to other local organizations to borrow space for popular seasonal and holiday parties.

Work on the expansion started last summer and lasted into the fall. By knocking down a wall and connecting to the space next door, a former fitness center, the program added a space arranged with round tables topped with plastic tubs of markers, crayons, and coloring books. There’s a couch and a television, a zen garden that doubles as a checkerboard, and a table for puzzles.

A wall of photos with Active Life stenciled above themTucked in a back corner there’s an arcade-style basketball machine, one of the most popular features in the program, both for the fun of shooting hoops and as a tribute to the memory of Ian Springfield, a local high school basketball hero and a longtime participant in the program, who passed away in June following a long illness. Some of the money to buy the basketball machine came from a $1,000 donation made by Springfield’s former team, the Conant High School Orioles, through the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary Club in his memory after their successful championship run last season.

“Ian would have loved this,” Martha Henault-Springfield, Ian’s mother, said of the new space during the ribbon-cutting celebration. “It’s wonderful for the people who are here and for the people who are going to come.”