LOCAL GROUP ADDS WORK FOR COLLEGES, CHILDREN

July 01, 2003 11:00 pm
THERAPY WORK: Devin Frasier, a La Grande High School junior, clears a path for perimeter sidewalks at the Mountain Valley Therapy building site on Cove Avenue Monday. J&D Hines Construction is the general contractor. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
THERAPY WORK: Devin Frasier, a La Grande High School junior, clears a path for perimeter sidewalks at the Mountain Valley Therapy building site on Cove Avenue Monday. J&D Hines Construction is the general contractor. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

"We are growing it to grow into it," physical therapist David Ebel said of his business and a new building going up on Cove Avenue.

With the building increasing the company's space by two-thirds its present size, Ebel and Diane Warnock, owners of Mountain Valley Therapy, will expand into teaching more college students and into treating children with disabilities.

Already involved with instructing at clinics around the world and with therapists who come to La Grande for training, more university students will be coming here, the owners said.

"Arizona State will become affiliated with us; we will teach their therapy students," Ebel said. Students come to La Grande for their practicum work. The company would like to expand this part of the business, working with students from other colleges. The staff, notably Ron Babcock, already works with athletes and the athletic trainers at Eastern Oregon University, Warnock said.

Ebel said he hopes to do more sports therapy — and not just rehabilitation.

"We want to do therapy for increasing performances of athletes, both college and high schools."

Working with children will fulfill a long-time dream, he said.

"It's been my vision for many years to help kids at an early age. It will be more than general therapy. We will do specific exercise work."

The larger building will provide space and room for equipment for working more with children with learning disabilities or with kids who may be clumsy, Ebel said.

"We will be one of the few places offering craniosacral therapy, sensory integration therapy and braingem. And we are talking about bringing in a therapist from Portland to work with kids and horse therapy," he said.

After a three-month start in a small office on Sunset Drive in January 1999, they moved the company to 1802 N. Fourth St., Suite A, which had been the Social Security office.

That office has 3,500 square feet. The business has grown to the extent that the owners feel it's time to move.

The 6,736-square-foot brick building on a 195- by-200-foot lot is going up at 2519 Cove Ave, near the interstate overpass. J&D Hines Construction of La Grande is the builder. Ron Warnock, Diane's husband, is overseeing the project. Building permits indicate the cost of the job is $515,107.

The business should move by Nov. 1, Diane Warnock said.

While little more than the foundation is rising from the site now, the business has been laying its foundation for growth from its beginnings.

Mountain Valley Therapy, which works with clients in physical and occupational therapy on referrals from doctors, now attracts clients from all over. Still, most of the clients are from Union County. Ebel has traveled extensively to help train therapists, he said.

"I go all over the world — France, Great Britain, Australia, Mexico — and bring some of their techniques back here."

"We work with therapists from as far away as Florida and Pennsylvania, observe them, help them enhance their skills," said Ebel, a native of Forest Grove and a graduate of Pacific University.

The new one-story building will make things easier in both teaching and training, providing more treatment rooms, more equipment.

Mountain Valley Therapy workers already spend a lot of volunteer time at schools in the county, Ebel said.

Having the company's therapists go once a week to the schools and to games "is part of what we want to give back to the community," Ebel said.

There are four physical therapists, Ebel, Ron Babcock, Ben Bertrand, Chase Katich; two occupational therapists, Susan Miller and Nicki Ebel (who does fill-ins); two athletic trainers, Erin Long and Alisha Guenther; three office staff, receptionist Liz Hudson, insurance clerk Heather Way and Warnock, who serves as office manager; and other part-time employees.

Kevin March, an acupuncturist, and Dr. Tim Schoenfelder, a specialist in pain management, will also be moving to the Cove Avenue location. Both have their own businesses now in the Mountain Valley Therapy offices on Fourth Street.

The company "requires and supports" its employees in their continuing education, Ebel said.

Workers must take at least two classes a year, preferably more, he said.

As the community grows and the business increases, more staff will be added, Ebel and Warnock said.