JOHN DAY - Step Forward Activities Inc. is proposing to construct two new group homes to replace existing leased housing in John Day for 10 disabled adults who live and work in the community.

The two 3,100-square-foot homes would be constructed as a part of an early phase of the Strawberry Mountain View Estates housing development proposed near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the east end of John Day.

Step Forward Activities is a non-profit organization providing vocational, housing, and other services to the developmentally disabled and mentally challenged adult population in Grant County.

Step Forward currently operates two group homes, one just southwest of John Day and the other southeast of Canyon City. The houses were not designed to serve the disabled adult population and are in need of substantial maintenance.

"Since we made a decision to provide essential services for the disabled adult population of Grant County, we have done everything we can to improve our programs and facilities," said Gene Button, Executive Director of the non-profit based in Baker City. "We want this to be our next commitment to benefit Grant County."

Step Forward Activities has operated a similar program in Baker City since 1976.

In 2004 and 2006, Step Forward successfully applied for grant funding to remodel one house and construct two new group homes in Baker City.

"They are beautiful new homes, and are a great addition to the community," said Button. "We look to provide the same type of benefit to the people of John Day and Grant County."

Step Forward Activities will apply for grant funding through Oregon Housing and Community Services for about 75 percent of the cost of the project, and will pay the remaining 25 percent from its operational reserves.

Step Forward is working with Orbis Group, Inc., a community and business development consulting firm in Baker City, to complete the grant. Orbis Group has already helped Step Forward Activities to raise over $1.6 million for equipment and housing.

Button invites community leaders to contact him at 888-606-6166 if they have any questions or suggestions related to the project.

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