Center offers programs for developmentally disabled

February 20, 2011 7:25:32 AM PST
Community centers offer a wide range of activities and opportunities for social interacting, but one unique center is adapted for people with developmental disabilities.

Located in Riverwoods, the Center for Enriched Living has been open for 43 years.

"They come here to meet friends, to enjoy new experiences, to get out in the community, to have a full active wonderful life just like we all like to enjoy," said Harriet Kevy, the center's executive director.

"We serve ages 9 to 75, and in fact, we serve all ages, and they come after school. So, they learn about the Center through their schools, their families, through their friends. We also address post-graduation life. So, we have two-day programs running," Levy said.

Social isolation is the biggest issue for this population.

"We're here primarily to address that social issue that they face every day of the week and they're here. When they come to the center to meet friends, they learn new activities, they learn new skills. We have person-centered programs where we give them the ability to make their own decisions," said Levy.

Programs offered at the center include creative arts, physical movements, field trips and learning how to be independent.

Cheryl Noll's 22 year old daughter, Kate, has been coming to the center since she was in grade school.

" She has so many friends here. It's like her second home, and for a parent to have your child go somewhere and know they're going to be safe and she learns social skills here, she has friends here and she loves to be here," Cheryl Nolls said. "She comes four days a week, she does. My husband and I joke, we don't have a social life because Kate does. We're constantly taking her somewhere with somebody."

Fun trips are also set up through the center.

"They go away for the weekends. She rode an elephant last year at the Bristol Fair," Cheryl said. "They went to Milwaukee to the zoo to the music festival up there."

For people with disabilities, being connected is essential.

"They need a social life just like we do. The Center's appropriately named because the Center enriches her life, which also enriches our life," the mother said.

"It's so important to be out there and to be included in the community, and the center is part of that community experience. It's like anybody that goes to work and wants to broaden their group of friends. If you just live, work eat play with the same group of people, you have more of a narrow experience, whereas if you were out in the community, your experience is more what we all experience," Levy said.

"I like my friends here," Kate told ABC7 Chicago.

The Center for Enriched Living currently has 450 members. There is a fee for programs.

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