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5 Steps to Opening a New DSA Location

Wed, June 01, 2016 1:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
The Up Side of Downs of Northeast Ohio, a DSA in Cleveland, opened a new location in May, complete with spaces for meetings and classes, and a storefront selling products by local artisans with Down syndrome. How did they do it? Are you ready to move to a bigger space? Here are the five steps to growing into space that will help your affiliate meet all the needs of the local Down syndrome community.


1. Launch new programs that will fill the space.

Years prior to opening the new center, The Up Side of Downs launched several new programs for its community. Before long, “we didn’t have the space [at our current location to hold the programs] and it was difficult to find space around town,” said The Up Side of Downs Executive Director Toni Mullee. And in 2014, the growing affiliate piloted The Learning Program. Added Mullee: “It was so successful, and we knew we needed a dedicated space to do that effectively.”


2. Get full support from your board.

Mullee emphasizes the need for an engaged board that not only fully backs the project but also supports the staff. “We have a really great board,” said Mullee. “You cannot succeed if you don’t have a board there to say ‘yes.’” The entire process took about a year from board approval to opening.


3. Engage your membership.

“We’ve determined that there is a lot of potential support in the community,” said Mullee. Whenever needs or challenges arose, the staff at The Up Side of Downs would ask their membership for help. “Tap your membership,” advises Mullee. “More often than not, we got what we needed.”


4. Involve the community in the build.

The Up Side of Downs built a team of vendors, consultants and contractors from its most vested stakeholders – its families. “We determined that there [was] a lot of potential support in the community,” said Mullee. Of course there was financial support in the form of grants and donations. But also It takes a lot of resources to find, lease and build out a new center. The organization found many of that support from untapped resources within its membership and around the community, including the real estate agent, the engineer who drew the plans, and the vendor that supplied the retail store fixtures, among others. “It’s amazing the resources you can find that are out right there in your community,” said Mullee.


5. Fill the center with great programs and value.

The Up Side of Downs is especially excited that its new center is located in a retail shopping building, which gave it the opportunity to open a retail store, Artful 21. “We are selling items from artisans with Down syndrome - local and from across the country – to spread awareness of the abilities of people with Down syndrome.” Self-advocates eventually will staff the store when it officially opens later this summer.

In addition to the retail space, The Up Side of Downs’ new center has a dedicated children’s classroom for book clubs, summer enrichment programs, art classes and The Learning Program. A general program area provides room for parent support groups, programs for adults with Down syndrome as well as the organization’s board meetings.

For more information about The Up Side of Downs’ new location, contact Toni Mullee at toni@usod.org or 216-447-8763.


I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio

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