Rest Haven, a home to Helen Keller in Monroe, is now open to the publi

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  • Timothy Mitts' research shows that Helen Keller was keenly involved Rest-Haven Inc., which operated as an adult home residence home from 1923 to 1968 at 236 High St. in the Village of Monroe. Keller can be seen in the center of this 1950 photo (she's turned to the left, holding the rail) on the steps to Rest-Haven with about 20 other blind women who were vacationing there. Mitts said the photo "starts to show that Helen was more involved in the operations of Rest-Haven than previously known to the public. There is a letter in 1945 or so that speaks of this that will be released later."

  • Provided photos Many of the services provided to assist with the restoration have been community-based by companies, such as Home Pro Electric and Shane Flooring.

  • This is the view from the parlor at Rest-Haven looking into foyer and then through to the dining room.

By Christine Urio

— Rest-Haven Inc., located at 236 High St., opened to the public on March 25 following a Monroe man's extensive research on Helen Keller’s involvement at this house.

“From 1923 to 1968, history shows this house did serve as an adult home residence for healthy blind women, and has since served as an adult home residence for the developmentally disabled, too,” said Timothy Mitts, the spokesman for HRR Corp. “Helen’s involvement is one in which she visited the home and overlooked the very operation.”

The site has officially been nominated as an historical site for Colonial Revival, as well as a health facility, reinforcing it's a vital element of Monroe history to document.

“The important part of this history is to make the village recognize and allow us to keep alive what this property meant to so many lives, from the blind health women to the developmentally delayed have enjoyed,” Mitts said. “This is a property for all adults needing some level of care, never abandoning its historical recognition as a health and medicine facility since 1923.”

To commemorate opening day, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) agreed to return historical items relating to Helen Keller and M.C. Migel, the founder and first president of the AFB, as well as Rest Haven Inc.

Helen Keller's location connections “The children and adults of this great community will learn that Helen Keller was here not only in 1950 as the pictures show, but at times, such as 1931, where an article was written stating she was in Monroe,” said Mitts. “The public will learn that not only is this a beautiful adult home residence, but also about the many locals of the time that helped to contribute to this as a grass route organization, such as the Lion Club and the American Red Cross.”

Many of the services provided to assist with the restoration have been community-based by companies, such as Home Pro Electric and Shane Flooring.

“We are so interested in preserving the facility, and to ensure this is met, we have a non-profit organization called 'Preservation of Rest Haven,”’ Mitts said. “The sole purchase of the organization is to educate the public about the facts of this house, and going forward to ensure the residence remains to its historical designation standards and to offer the public access to this property over time.”

Mitts also feels it's important to protect a true symbol of Monroe’s past.

“We believe this will help the community grow because elders have a place to reside, and the family members will know that their parents are cared for in a place that loves their community,” said Mitts.

Mitts has given much of his time, and self to this project because he strongly feels it's a community asset.

“It doesn’t take much, in my opinion, to donate my time and self in a story that has yet to be told—I wish to be this story teller,” he said. “I am a person who loves the future, but treasures the past. It is important for me when my time comes to know that our organization can pass on this important historical site to future generations.”

InspirationHe feels because Keller is at role model who has inspired much confidence, she deserves to be honored through this site.

“Helen has inspired me by showing us all that no matter what our differences are, and we all do have differences, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to live together in peace,” said Mitts. “Helen is worth learning about and remembering because she overcame many problems in life. If one can overcome differences and perseverance, we can use this adult home residence to show the world how we can live in peace and help our fellow people as they come to crisis and cross roads in their lives.”

ActivitiesMitts is scheduled to speak at the Monroe Senior Center, as well as the Monroe Library, and has tentative meetings set up with the Orange County Tourism as well as the Orange County Historical Society.

Additionally, he is looking to create an event for the community to officially commemorate the property as an historical site.

With the help of Helen Selsdon, an AFB archivist, Rest Haven will have a blog on the AFB website with an embedded link to their website, which will reach nearly 100,000 followers.

Mitts is also planning for the public to come watch the movie, “Miracle Worker,” staring Patty Duke, at Rest Haven.

Through his work, Mitts was fortunate enough to have Keller Thompson, Helen’s great-great-aunt, who works for the Helen Keller International Organization, reach out to him.

Thompson's comments reaffirmed what he hoped.

“I know [Helen] would be pleased with what you are doing here at Rest Haven,” Mitts said she told him.

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