The Douglas Center offers work training, experience for adults with disabilities

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The Douglas Center provides day programs for adults with severe intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. (WLS)

This Tuesday is being dubbed "Giving Tuesday," a day set aside for people and businesses to give to their favorite charities to kick off the holiday season.

One organization contends it is certainly worth your consideration, after all, they say they are already giving back way more than they could ever receive.

The Douglas Center is a non-profit social service agency in Skokie. It provides day programs for adults with severe intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

"They are here for about five and a half hours," said Rifath Kahn, CEO of the Douglas Center. "We're providing them lots of training programs. The main focus is really work. We provide them with work programs, training and work."

There are 140 people training in this 36,000-square-foot facility, named after civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglas. They come mostly from group homes and other residential providers throughout the area. And they face all kinds of challenges.

"I feel like each person has so many different needs and so many different interests that this is a place of choices," Kahn said.

Nowhere are those choices more evident than in the Art with a Heart program, where students can choose their own medium and create their own art objects. The pieces are then sold everywhere from hospitals to college campuses.

"Once they make this we take it out in the community and sell these products for them and a portion comes back to the artist who designed it," Kahn said.

The Douglas Center also has a contract with outside vendors for product assembly, and they are even doing sewing work for the Department of Defense.

"So, we are making white medical smocks for the nurses and doctors. We are making gun-barrel covers for them. We are also making duffle bags, which are carried by every person who is in the armed forces," Kahn said.

But perhaps most importantly, they are providing these people with a sense of purpose and just a safe place to spend their days.

"There is no time limit as to how long they can be here for," Kahn said. "I've had people who've been here for 15 years. I've had people who come and go. So while they are really learning as many skills as they possibly can, we provide all the support system while they are here."

Right now the Douglas Center is trying to raise about $8,000 to build a multi-sensory therapy room, a place of peace and quiet where the clients could relax and take part in all kinds of experiences. It would be complete with a wall-sized aquarium for the clients to enjoy.

If you'd like to donate, purchase artwork or learn more about the Douglas Center, visit
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societydisabilitydisability issuesSkokie
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