Alder Springs Deaf & Blind Community, a private non-profit independent-living retirement community, has recently opened its first phase in Morganton, North Carolina.

Barbara Palmento, ’72, serves on the board of directors, and has documented the phases of construction and opening of the facility on YouTube and other social media. Phase One included the opening of a residential building, Phase Two will consist of another residential building, and Phase Three will include a community center.

Construction progress was tracked on YouTube, along with detailed explanations of floor plans and building features from Palmento. Alder Springs is governed by the North Carolina School for the Deaf (NCSD) at Morganton Foundation, Inc. Palmento serves as president of the NCSD Foundation Board of Directors.

Alder Springs offers one- and two-bedroom apartment plans, along with common spaces for gatherings. Common spaces offer a large, reversible poker table that can be flipped to accommodate dining and chess playing, couches, a large television, and storage cabinets for games. All apartment plans include laundry facilities and accommodative technologies for deaf and blind residents.

Examples of accommodations include each room having visual doorbell lights, wide hallways to accommodate wheelchair users, and a webcam in the lobby that gives guests the ability to alert a resident when they arrive (video demonstration).

“Our goal is to bring in deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, blind, CODAs, or anyone who can sign and is over 50 years old,” said Palmento. “We want them to enjoy their lives during their golden years.”

Alder Springs also collaborated with NCSD to have students perform community service hours to help set up furniture, clean and maintain the community grounds, and offer customer service.

Jimmy Autrey, a job coach who supervised NCSD students assembling furniture and setting up common spaces, said in a YouTube video shared by Alder Springs that NCSD students gained learning experiences.

“This teaches the students how to become independent and develop skills for their future jobs,” said Autrey.

Palmento acknowledges the role Gallaudet played in her setting the stage for the establishment of Alder Springs.

“Gallaudet taught me to be independent and to take leadership throughout the years,” said Palmento. “This is my way of giving back to the community; it is my hope that retired Gallaudet faculty and staff move here for their retirement among like-minded individuals.”

Palmento, who hails from Waterbury, Connecticut, taught at NCSD for 34 years and occasionally teaches as a substitute. She has lived in Morganton for 43 years.

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