$1.2 million bequest will add homes to Rainbow Village

$1.2 million bequest will add homes to Rainbow Village

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY • At home at Rainbow Village, Mike Nash, 54, wears a Cardinals lanyard around his neck with a small Snoopy attached and earphones so he can listen to his favorite country disc jockey on the radio.

Nash is unabashedly enthusiastic about his home team — and about his home at Rainbow Village, a nonprofit that provides long-term affordable homes for adults with developmental disabilities.

Now, thanks to a $1.2 million donation from the estate of Edith L. Wolff, more people will have the same opportunity.

Wolff, who died in 2008, and her husband, Alan, who died in 1989, have donated more than $90 million to local charities, with a large proportion to Washington University for medical research, their attorney said. The Wolffs owned Wolff Construction Co., developed and managed commercial real estate for grocery stores and built strip shopping centers throughout the Midwest.

Last week, a crowd of residents, friends, supporters and staff of Rainbow Village and political officials gathered outside to rename the main campus near Creve Coeur to honor the Wolffs. Two of the Wolffs' nephews and spouses attended.

Morry Oppenheim, a nephew of the Wolffs, said philanthropy was important to them.

"We were always very proud of them and happy they could do it," Oppenheim said.

The $1.2 million will be used to purchase, renovate and custom-fit additional homes, enabling more adults with developmental disabilities to live in their own homes in the community, said Mike Rea, director of development and community relations for Rainbow Village.

"Rainbow Village offers those who never thought they would have a home of their own just that," he said at the dedication. "Our biggest obstacle is that we are limited by our insufficient resources."

Statewide, about 4,000 people with development disabilities are on waiting lists for services or residential opportunities, he said.

"Never has such a generous gift been more needed, nor gone further, nor made such a fundamental difference to those who cannot advocate for themselves," Rea said.

Rainbow Village both buys and builds houses and works with 14 other support service agencies who provide care, including St. Louis ARC.

Board member Michelle Murray called the gift "transformational" for the agency.

The main Rainbow Village campus has 13 houses and a multi-purpose headquarters with a therapeutic swimming pool, gymnasium, classrooms, meeting rooms, offices, a cafeteria and a walking trail. An additional 41 homes are in neighborhoods throughout St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. Rainbow Village is now purchasing its 55th house.

Al and Joyce Weltman say Rainbow Village has helped give them peace of mind about the future for their daughter Sallie, 51.

"The most important worry parents have is what will happen to their children when they're gone," said Al Weltman, 88.

A support staff person is in each home for 24 hours a day. Many of the residents are able to work at sheltered workshops.

"The staff and people there are so nice, they're almost like another family," Weltman said.

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