Social service agency celebrates 40 years

March 1, 2009 7:33:42 AM PST
In 1969, a mother started a private therapeutic school for her developmental disabled son.Over the years, the school expanded to a comprehensive social service agency offering a wide range of services to children and adults with disabilities.

Esperanza Community Services has given people with disabilities a place in this world. Although the organization has had a successful 40 years, workers are worried about the future.

Esperanza has programs designed to give individuals with disabilities various independent living skills.

Diane Farina White is the executive director. She says the population has grown over the last 40 years.

"We started with just a small group of parents who started this organization with a handful of students. Now, we are a staff of over 80 with several hundred students and participants," White said.

Sixty percent of Esperanza's students and staff are Latino.

" We are based in the Latino culture, and so, all of our services are provided in both English and Spanish," Farina said.

"There's a lot of challenges especially in the Latino community where, in the past, having a disabled child, there weren't lot of services offered to them. So, people tended to hide in their homes. Agencies like ours really help those families network with each other, provide services for their students or their children," the executive director said.

Esperanza has programs available for all ages.

" We're a K-12 school. So, students can stay here until their twenty-second birthday and then our adult programs, we take twenty-one years and up, and we do have many elderly participants," said Farina.

The most visual and popular program at Esperanza is art.

"Our art work is gorgeous, and we have very dedicated staff that works on that. We've expanded to mosaics, and we expanded to sculptures," Farina said.

However, Farina also says is concerned about state funding which impacts Esperanza's future.

" I will tell you that the most challenging thing has been for us is that it's very difficult for adults with disabilities to get the funding from the state ,and organizations like ours have to have funding with those individuals and have to come through the referred sources," she told ABC7 Chicago.

But like the name Esperanza, which means" hope" in Spanish, Farina says:

"I definitely think we'll be around, but I think it's going to be a very hard couple of years until the state of Illinois straightens out the budget crisis."

In honor of their 40th year, Esperanza has a number of different activities scheduled. T

For more information about the organization, go to