Lambs Farm celebrates 50 years with great pride. They have become a model for programs designed for people with developmental disabilities across the country and in many parts of the world.
Located just off the tollway, Lambs Farm is a sprawling 72-acre living and working community for more than 200 adults with developmental disabilities.
"Our people today range in age from 30 to 77," said Lambs Farm president and CEO Dianne Yaconetti. "We actually, unfortunately, just lost one in February that was 87 years old. They are living full, happy, productive lives and we would like to think that their experience at Lambs Farm has a lot to do with that.
"We have 140 people living on our campus. We have another 30 people living in six family dwellings in the surrounding communities that we own and operate, which gives people a lot of different choices of how they want to live.
"We have a number of businesses that are members of the local business community...We have a restaurant with good food and a pet shop and a farm yard...We have a number of participants working there."
Lambs Farm is named from a Bible quote, "Feed my lambs."
"It was originally called the Lambs Pet shop," said Yaconetti. "Obviously, the farm element came when W. Clement Stone brought the farm here in '65."
The founders of Lambs Farm, Bob Terese and Corinne Owens, were school teachers.
"When they started to work together at the Bonaparte school prior to founding Lambs Farm, neither of them had met a person with developmental disability," said Yaconetti.
Some of the residents, like Janice Small, have been part of Lambs Farm since it started.
"Before I came here I was in the day program," said Small. "I traveled back and forth. I worked downtown at the State Street store with Bob and Corinne. I lived with my mother and my father and my brother."
At 71 years old, Small lives a full and busy life.
"Number one, I'm working at the work center part-time and part-time at the restaurant. I'm a busser, I do everything. I greet the people, I talk to people. sometimes I answer the phones, sometimes I make drinks," Small said.
"The fact that they're mildly to moderately disabled gives us a chance to really watch them grow," said Yaconetti. "That's what Lambs Farm is all about. It's a place where they can come, they can choose what their lifestyle is supposed to be."
There is much to see and do at Lambs Farm. For more information go to www.lambsfarm.org.
They also have a book called Lambs Farm: Where People Grow.