FARGO - Owen Turnmire, surrounded by bubbles floating in the air, was in his happy place.
Owen, encouraged by staff members at the Anne Carlsen Center, turned and chased the bubbles being blown by a bubble machine in a therapy room, reveling in the magic.
Karen Turnmire said her 5-year-old is on the autism spectrum, and receives speech and occupational therapy.
“We have seen a huge improvement,” Turnmire said Monday, Aug. 9, during the Center’s open house celebrating the consolidation of its Fargo services into one building at 4152 30th Ave. S.
Owen’s gains have held even through the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the center’s efforts, Turnmire said. “We love Anne Carlsen.”
Across the hall, 17-month-old Parker Muhs poked his head out of a plastic tunnel and grabbed a ball.
Parker gets speech therapy and other early interventions, his mother Jordan Muhs said.
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“It’s making sure he keeps up with all his milestones,” Muhs said as Parker crawled toward the hall, drawn by the happy noises from the bubble play area. “He loves to play on the ground and play with balls and go in the tunnels.”
The Anne Carlsen Center provides services to about 4,000 people with developmental disabilities or delays, from birth to adulthood, in North Dakota and part of Minnesota.
The nonprofit recently finished consolidating its Fargo area early intervention services, behavioral health and autism services, and physical, occupational and speech therapy services into one location.
For years, those services - offered for all ages from infants to adults - were spread among three separate locations, making it harder for families to get care for their loved ones.
Monday’s open house - which included a brief ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassadors - celebrated the consolidation.
“This provided an opportunity to, we think, integrate these services” and provide them more efficiently, Anne Carlsen Center’s CEO Tim Essinger said. “That’s really the way a lot of social services agencies are operating.”
Sarah Fuchs, operating manager for the behavioral health section of the center, said the consolidation makes it convenient for families “and allows for wrap-around services.”
With the center’s experience and expertise concentrated in one spot, “They have a body of knowledge in the same space to make good decisions,” Essinger said.
Larry Olson, a volunteer Chamber ambassador, shared the story of a relative whose life was changed when he and his parents traveled from Thief River Falls, Minn., to the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, when he was but three years old.
“It changed his life phenomenally,” Olson said. The help he got from the Anne Carlsen Center eventually allowed Donny to live independently and travel around the town on his three-wheeled bike.
“I’d look around at a RedHawks game or at a parks program, or just downtown, and there Donny would be,” Olson said.
The Anne Carlsen Center can trace its roots back to Fargo, where the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society founded the Good Samaritan Institute in 1932 at the former Fargo College. The school grew for several years, then ran into staffing, debt and licensing troubles. The Good Samaritan Society was taken over by the Lutheran Hospitals and Home Society, and the school was renamed the North Dakota School for Crippled Children. The school was then moved to Jamestown, where the School for Crippled Children at Jamestown was dedicated in 1941.
In 1980, the school was renamed the Anne Carlsen School for Children in honor of Dr. Anne Carlsen who served as teacher and administrator of the school for 40 years.
In 2008, it was renamed the Anne Carlsen Center.