Even with rain leaking in and state funding slowly siphoned away, Esther Alicia Careaga continued caring for the developmentally disabled adults and children of Payson with a smile on her face for the last 10 years.
“Throughout the years I have been through a lot, and I could have given up, but I never did because this is what I love,” she said.
Careaga along with another employee run Rim Clear Path Center for special-needs adults and children at 308 E. Juniper.
The center teaches daily living skills many of us take for granted like writing our name, buying groceries, going to the library, using the computer or basic socializing. The center provides one-on-one instruction to build the necessary skills that would otherwise go unlearned.
Students proudly display their artwork and awards on the walls of the converted home and Careaga’s office is filled with pictures, posters and drawings.
However, when the economy went into a recession and the state cut funding, Careaga found herself with a badly leaking roof that forced her to close nearly half of the facility.
“There is no way I could have afforded to fix it,” she said.
But Careaga’s good deeds had not gone unnoticed by the community and friend Tate Wanless of Fresh Breeze Heating and Cooling offered to round up a group of service professionals to make the $12,000 repairs for free.
Several months earlier, Wanless had created Payson Professionals At Your Service (PAYS). A comprehensive listing of local service providers that are individually licensed, insured and recommended by other contractors.
The booklet, available free at local restaurants and stands around town, covers more than 40 trades ranging from framer, roofer, home inspector to beautician.
With this new network in place, Wanless contacted providers and got Careaga’s roof fixed.
Jason Bland at Bland Family Development Inc. offered to fix the roof while several local suppliers donated supplies for a new window, paint and concrete walkway.
After several months of work, the room is nearly complete and Careaga can finally open it up for activities.
“I am so thankful for their help,” she said.
Wanless said Payson PAYS plans to donate services several times a year to individuals and organizations in town that need repairs.
“We want to donate our time to individuals like her that need help,” he said.
Careaga started caring for special-needs adults and children in Rim Country in 1999. After moving from the Valley, where she worked in special education for Phoenix Union School District for 10 years, Careaga said she noticed there was a need for her services.
“I asked around if there was big need and found out there was,” she said.
After opening her first center in Star Valley, Careaga quickly moved to a bigger center in Payson on Cherry Street to keep up with demand. From there, she relocated again to Juniper Street to a half-acre lot where she can care for up to 20 adults and 20 children.
Today, she cares for five adults and one child but said she has room for more.
On a typical day, participants eat lunch, go to the movies or library, play games, complete art and craft projects and, most importantly, socialize with each other.
“We are a small facility, so we can offer that one-on-one type of service.”
At her home on Cherry Street, Careaga offers respite and attendant care. During the school year she offers an after-school program and in the summer a summer program filled with fun activities like trips, bowling and swimming.
For more information, call (928) 472-6969.