After 18 months of furious activity, the sounds of construction havebegun to lessen at Providence Activity Center North. And now the clients are back.

The activity center, under the umbrella of the Providence Center, has undergone a $600,000 renovation.

Fifty-six mentally and physically disabled adults have returned to their workshop from Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Severna Park, where they had a temporary facility.

Michelle Zinck, program administrator, is very pleased to be back.

"We're now able to offer so much more. We have better accessibility for wheelchairs including an elevator," said Zinck. "There's a new intercom system. If someone needs help -- right now -- they don't have to run down the hall to get someone. They don't have to even leave the room."

The activity center helps disabled clients age 21 and over reach their goal of more independent living.

Providence Center's clients are evaluated in seven categories -- including functional levels, skills assessment and nutritional assessment -- to assure maximum potential from their training.

A visitor to the center may find a trio of ladies preparing breakfast or lunch in their new "dream kitchen," under the supervision of Colleen Spaniol.

A few doors down the hall, Diane Reilly is working with clients, teaching sorting skills with colors, utensils, coins.

The hallway is a flurry of activity, as clients learn housekeeping skills to use in their own homes or possibly in the workplace. As with all work done at the center, members of the cleaning crew are paid for their efforts.

Hair ornaments, clay pots, Easter baskets and holiday wreaths are only a few of the craft projects that the clients make. Many of the crafts are sold either through retail outlets or at a Christmas craft show coordinated through the Providence Center central office in Arnold.

One project offered by the center involves recycling newspaper by rolling the paper into tubes and then selling it to florists to use as packaging.

Eventually, the center will be adding a pottery program, and plans for a greenhouse are being made.

An open house has been planned for the spring, when the renovations will be completed.

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