Support service gives back to the community

August 6, 2009 (OAK PARK, Ill.) Oak Park River Food Pantry is a busy place. Volunteers with and without disabilities are working together. Kathy Russell is one of the managers.

"I think they form relationships with the other volunteers of the food pantry," said Russell.

Allen Weber Jr. is from Oak-Leyden Developmental Services.

"Just to volunteer, you know, to help people out if they need help," said Weber. "They really help us with these deliveries, that's behind us extra man hours and people hours of getting all the food off conveyor belts moving it around the pantry."

Giving back to the community is one of many services provided by Oak-Leyden. Valerie Ossler is the development director.

"We serve over 600 people," said Ossler. "We have residential services so we have family like homes in the community where people with disabilities lives and they received 25 hours support.

"We also have a vocational program where adults with disabilities learn skills so they can live more independently...We also have supported employment where adults with disabilities get jobs in the communities."

Like many disability organizations, they created a small business called Double Green Totes.

"Rita Evens was the person who came up wit the idea to recycle the jeans, not contribute to landfills. She made the original prototype, but then she's gone out and taught a bunch of our participants to sew them together and then they decorate them," said Ossler. "Then she goes to farmers market and sells them or people can come here and buy them from us."

Future funding is a big concern for many organizations serving people with disabilities.

"Because the adults aren't getting funded unless they're considered crisis situations in Illinois, they come to use either as we have a capacity or they get the funding," Ossler said.

To learn more about Oak-Leyden Developmental Services go to

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