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Margaret Hill looked slightly puzzled when someone asked why she and her son were devoting time and energy -- and their money -- to starting a day-care center for children born with special needs.

"Because there's a need for it," the retired nurse replied simply.

Kids With Special Needs Day Care Center hopes to open by April 30 in a former appliance store at 696 Broadway.

It is intended for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years born HIV-positive or with chemical dependencies.

A staff, including a nurse, physician's assistant and special education teacher, will provide medical care as well as typical child care services. And the aim is a holistic approach that hopefully also will help the parents, pointed out Bob Hill, her son and partner in the non-profit enterprise.

During an open house Friday, government officials had kind words for the endeavor, believed to be unique in this area.

"We're thrilled to see what you're doing," said Deborah Merrifield, county commissioner of social services. Working with the PACT (Parents and Children Together) Program at Children's Hospital, which has proved effective, the new center "will help families get back on their feet," she said.

Tom Gleed, executive assistant to Mayor Masiello, said the center will not only provide a valuable service but will help the neighborhood by putting a vacant building back to use.

The center has 35 children enrolled and eventually will have 150, said Hill, a local broadcaster for American Radio Systems.

He said they have applications pending for government grants but acknowledged that he and his mother have put some of their own money into the project to get it going. Many of the children will likely be eligible for tuition assistance from Social Services.

Numerous people have volunteered their services, but more are welcomed, and financial donations are always welcome, Hill said.

Further information is available by calling 852-0159.

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