Over the last 75 years, Turnstone has gone through a lot of changes and growth. But the core values of the Fort Wayne facility for people with disabilities has remained the same.
Turnstone started in 1943 when eight families got together and opened the school for students with significant disabilities in a house on Fairfield Avenue. Eventually, Turnstone moved to its current facility on North Clinton Street and has grown from 12 students to 3,600 unique clients, with a staff of 100.
“We have had significant and steady growth over the 75 years,” said Mike Mushett, who has been Turnstone's CEO since 2015. “We are very fortunate that the community has embraced and supported us and allowed us to sustain the growth in the programs we do have.
“Seventy-five years of history has done a good job as far as the awareness out in the community. Most of the people in the community have heard of Turnstone, but not everybody knows what we do, which is an area that we need to continue to work on.”
Despite its longevity and importance, Turnstone has existed for many years in anonymity, but that lack of visibility changed three years ago with the construction of the Plassman Center, which nearly tripled the size of Turnstone from 65,000 to 190,000 square feet.
It also put Turnstone on the national and international map for athletes with disabilities.
The Plassman Center, which began through the initial contributions of retired local businessman Ron Plassman and completed through a capital campaign, also increased the awareness of Turnstone's other services, including therapeutic, adult day care, health and wellness, early learning and case management.
The 3-year-old facility will host six national championships and several regional tournaments this year, along with being the host facility for the U.S. national goalball team.
“The Plassman Center has elevated us to a new level,” Mushett said. “It has allowed us to significantly grow the events that we host on a regional and a national basis. What has gotten a lot of attention lately has been the Plassman Center. It is kind of the shiny new toy that has allowed us to expand all of our programs. But the expansion has allowed us to serve more people in all our other programs as well.
“The Plassman Center was the catalyst. It is a novel facility of its kind in the United States, so it gets a lot of attention. It allows us to do a lot of new programs that we couldn't do.”
About 70 percent of Turnstone's $5 million budget comes from donations, which increases the importance of community support needed for the continued viability of the facility.
“The community has definitely rallied around our mission consistently,” said Stasha Carrasquillo, chief marketing officer. “Working with a community that is so receptive and is spreading that ripple effect is our organization's vision, which is to aspire to a world where people are valued based on their abilities, rather than their disabilities.”
Turnstone also has had an impact on the future of similar facilities across the country and around the world. International organizations that serve people with disabilities come to Turnstone to learn the techniques and programs that make it so successful and take that model back to their own countries.
“It has been an exciting effort for us to be involved in, ... having an international influence on how people with disabilities are treated and how they are encouraged and nurtured in their home countries,” Carrasquillo said.
Mushett said Turnstone is still growing into the Plassman Center and its newfound visibility and anticipates plenty of growth over the next few years.
“The next five years will be focused on growing into our facilities that we do have and working hard to ensure we are financially sustainable for the long haul,” he said.