The disabled bloom at Garden Center Services

"The idea of Garden Center was that it's to help people to grow and to bloom," executive director Gerry Beagles said. "The agency serves about 150 individuals with developmental disabilities and we have two day programs where we try to give them multiple experiences to imrpve their quality of life, exposure to the community.

"At the center, we work on daily living skills, we work on vocational skills. We're very pleased with some of our new programs in terms of the art program and the music program and the cooking program."

Since coming to the agency eight years ago, Beagles has seen positive changes.

"I'm very proud of our new programs because they're giving people the ability to express themselves and to experience new parts of themselves that historically they haven't had an opportunity to do. When they get a chance to do that, you just see this incredible burst of self esteem."

The agency plans to expand its art program with a gallery and studio in Tinley Park.

Art coordinator Beth Kopf feels many clients have unique hidden talents.

"They are different every day and it reflects their moods and their painting reflects their mood," she said. "Their outward personality has been changing and it's because they're getting rid of creative energy and it's also because they are expressing themselves whether people understand what they're saying or not is beside the point."

Kopf said the agency has sold several painting and fundraisings and from people coming into the agency asking to buy art work.

There are some 70 painting on display in the community, including Starbucks and Lewis University, which hosts an exhibit once a year.

They also provide housing for adults with disabilities throughout the Chicago area.

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