The Mission 6: A Life Community for Developmentally Disabled Adults

If you have read the blogs in Back Story, you know that my mission is to put this book, “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” in the hands of all little children everywhere.  But that mission has many goals much like the roots of a plant.

This story that began as a gift and has generated many gifts as it was created, should keep giving.  A portion of profits from this story will go into the funding of a Not-For-Profit organization.

Works created by this organization will depend on a volunteer force and will not be dependent upon government funds.  This does not mean we will not utilize government grants where they are available.  But it does mean that no service will be funded by government funds to the degree that the success of the service is dependent upon these funds.

Hopefully, this blog will touch persons in other communities who recognize the gifts that they have received from God and who also will choose to use their gifts to fund good works in their own communities.

The first of the good works I hope to help fund is a ‘residential/work community for developmentally disabled adults.’

My community and the surrounding area provide wonderful programs for disabled children and adults.  We have many agencies and organizations that offer support and great education programs that take special needs into consideration.  We are the home of the Special Olympics and we are fortunate to have these resources in our community.

I have a granddaughter with special needs.  Lauren is ‘delayed.’  She is a happy child who loves music and dance. . .loves to socialize. . .party. . .like anyone else.

Lauren will turn 21 in March.  She has had the opportunity to be a cheerleader in Jr. High, she has worked a few different places and loved working at Four Seasons Health Club.  She had a great sweet sixteen party with lots of friends, lots of food, music and dancing!  She’s had the opportunity to attend several school dances including two proms!  Shopping for a dress with Lauren is a buzz.

She loves Pop culture and don’t think she doesn’t know what’s going on!  I remember when she loved Brittany Spears.  But she has moved on to love other artists like Bieber, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift to name just a few.  Like many teenagers she can entertain herself by listening to radio or putting on her mp3 player and headphones.  She doesn’t have any difficulty figuring out how to work these things.

She is a vibrant young woman although some people who will never get to know her may not see it.

The educational system in B-N has provided Lauren with many opportunities including the work program.  She officially graduated from high-school in June at age 20.  The whole family was there of course and I saw many of my friends there celebrating their children’s graduation.

There was a beautiful moment, after the graduates had received their diplomas,  and returned to their seats, when they were announced as the class of 2012!  Everyone moved their tassles from one side of the mortarboard to the other.  Nearly everyone anyway.  Lauren did not do so.  After about 2 -3 minutes, the young man seated behind her, leaned forward, reached out to her tassle and moved it for her.

I can’t tell you how meaningful and beautiful that gesture was.  Even now thinking about it, I tear up.  I wish I knew who that young man was.  I would love to thank him for his thoughtful gesture.

This says a lot about our community, this young man and also about Lauren.  You see everyone who works with Lauren loves her.  Her spirit is ‘cool’.

Even though she has graduated, she can continue to attend high school until age 21, this coming March.  And so she does.  It is a place not only where she learns, but a place to socialize and mingle with friends.

And I wonder, how will Lauren’s life change once she no longer attends high-school.

I know our Community College too has a program and that she will be attending college.  I don’t know what is included in that program but I know it will be a good program and an adventure.

But still, I wonder . . . how is Lauren’s life going to change over time?  She will have to find another job because she loves  work and the people she gets to work with.   But will she continue to have a social life beyond school and work?  And so I also wonder about all of the special needs children who have matured into special needs adults.  What is the forecast for meaningful interaction in their lives?

When I was younger, I used to notice what looked like a little farm on I-294 at Libertyville, Illinois.  There was a field of green grass, a red barn with white trim, and animals.  I used to wonder what it was.  One day I learned about “Lambs Farm – where people grow.”

I learned that this was the home of a special needs program.  I learned that it was a nice place to have an event or lunch and that many jobs were filled with special needs adults.

So in the fall of 2011, my husband and I drove up to visit Lambs Farm, where I learned so much more.  This venture started many years ago as a pet shop in downtown Chicago, created by the owners to provide meaningful work for challenged adults.  The employees were hired to care for the animals, keep stock and so forth.  Eventually, because of a donation of land, the business evolved to be a complete community of business and services as well as a residential community of challenged adults.  There is housing of course, and a gym/community center, a work center, a restaurant, a thrift shop, bakery and the key services, the pet shop and petting farm.  Some challenged adults work in each of these businesses while others are bused to jobs in the surrounding community.

On our visit we discovered that a chili cookoff was going on that weekend on premises.  And we learned of many events hosted by and at Lambs Farm with hundreds of volunteers to keep things going.  What a wonderful experience it was to learn even just a little about this organization.  It is studied by people from all over the world.

I also learned that Lambs Farm has a 20 year waiting list.   The purpose of my visit was to see/experience Lambs Farm in the hope of re-creating the success locally.  But clearly it would be near impossible to get a young challenged adult into the community in the near future.

And so I have a vision for a special needs adult community here in central Illinois, based on the model of Lambs Farm.  But where do I start?  It is a question I will begin to explore once I retire from full time work next year.  In the meantime, I will focus on building the best, most giving community to help put the book “The Star Who Almost Wasn’t There” into the hands of all little children everywhere.

Discover Lambs Farm:  http://lambsfarm.org/discover/

And you can follow Lambs Farm on Facebook too: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lambs-Farm/68610286179?fref=ts

Can you imagine a caring community for developmentally disable adults in your community?  Would you like to use your gifts to help create a similar community?  Will you take the challenge?

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