The alpacas of Crajah House on Oenoke Ridge Road on Tuesday were shorn of their thick winter coats—see photos above. Their owner, New Canaan’s Debbie McQuilkin, tells us the process for each “blanket” includes picking out sticks, hay and straw, then going for the secondary areas of the neck, backside and legs. The material is sent to a fiber mill where it’s washed, cleaned again and dyed or made into a yarn that McQuilkin herself chooses—fine knitting or heavy weaving for rugs. It also can be sent back for hand spinning or felting, McQuilkin said. The alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin, and it’s naturally fire-resistant.
The head of a nonprofit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities said his agency will only start operating out of The Hub in downtown New Canaan under the board now in charge of the facility if that group somehow achieves financial viability. New Canaan resident Dennis Perry, president and CEO of Greenwich-based Abilis, said his organization’s first priority is to avoid doing “anything that puts the population we serve at risk.”
“I will not open up and find the facility that we are operating in is not financially viable, and then have to shut down,” Perry said when asked about the prospect of operating out of the lower level of The Hub, as per a Memo of Understanding now in place. “The discontinuity that would create for these individuals who do not transition well—we would be irresponsible to do that.”
The comments come as questions surround The Hub’s ability to make money and self-sustain—a challenge that the building’s former operator, the Outback Teen Center, was unable to overcome, ultimately closing for good last summer. Inchoate plans for a catch-all community center appear to have garnered little support. An online campaign seeking to raise $25,000 in support of The Hub has banked just $2,320 in two weeks—with more than a quarter of that from board members themselves—raising questions about the community’s interest in the broad program that’s been proposed for the facility.
One year after the Outback Teen Center received no town funding as its board at the time sought to forge a public-private partnership with New Canaan, town officials are proposing to put $10,000 into a contingency fund that could support a re-branded facility under new leadership that’s designed to serve a wider demographic. Because the major program expected to run out of “The Hub,” as the newly launched Outback building has been re-branded, would meet a major need by serving special needs adults, the Health & Human Services Commission for next year’s budget is seeking to set aside $10,000 to support the nonprofit organization, according to Judy Dunn, the commission’s chair. “The state of Connecticut stops aiding special needs people at age 21, so after that they get nothing,” Dunn told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday in proposing a spending plan for next fiscal year. “Because this is an entirely new program, we didn’t want to take the entire amount they asked for and just say, ‘Here,’ ” Dunn said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “We did not feel that was fiscally responsible of us to do.