By Joel Hall
Dozens of anxious clients of Community Support Services, an arm of Clayton Center, which provides outreach, skill development, and supported employment for people with mental and physical disabilities, stood outside one of the center's large presentation rooms on Monday morning.
Usually, clients would be waiting for a class or a group discussion, but this time they were waiting to be scared silly.
With $500, donated lumber from The Home Depot in Riverdale, a couple of fog machines, strobe lights, and lots of fake blood, Community Support Services put together a haunted house fund-raiser for its clients. At $5 a head for the general public, the house has raised over $900 since last Monday, the proceeds going toward doctors' fees, clothing, food, medicine, or any other things clients may need.
Elaine Stevens, motor vehicle manager for Community Support Services, led a team of nine people who built the haunted house in just six days. The house includes several scary stations, including a dungeon, a graveyard, a funeral parlor, and a mad butcher shop offering visitors less than traditional cuts of meat.
The people behind the ghastly costumes are all Community Support Services staffers and their family members. "It's definitely a family affair," said Stevens. "We have to have a little madness in us to do it, but I love it."
Janice Sardine, event coordinator for the Clayton Center, said the event is good for the center in that it introduces the services of Community Support Services to the general public, and also gives clients of the center a chance to participate in normal holiday activity.
"It's good for our consumers, because they always get left out of things," said Sardine. "This givens them a chance to do what normal people do. When [the haunted house] just started, it was slow, but over the weekend, we had quite a few people. We're hoping that this week, more people come through."
Stevens said one of the greatest features of the haunted house is that it can be adjusted to accommodate small children, who might not want such a terrifying experience, or for people who suffer from seizure disorders.
"We try to make it child friendly, and I think that's why we're getting a lot of attention," said Stevens. "I'm very impressed. It's paid for anything we have had to pay out of pocket, plus some. Not only are we trying to raise funds, but we are trying to let people in the community know of our services."
The Clayton Center Haunted House will run until Oct. 31, from 7 p.m., to 10:30 p.m. The center is located at 6315 Garden Walk Blvd. in Riverdale.