Garden Center Services - Where Dignity And Independence Grow
By Christine Bowen
For over 50 years, Garden Center Services has provided a safe place
for persons with developmental disabilities to learn independent living skills and develop
their capacity in vocational areas. Garden Center Services is a not-for-profit
corporation established in 1956 by a group of concerned parents. The agency was
created to provide services to individuals with development disabilities whose needs
were not being met in the local schools. Families continue to play an integral part
in the agency and the lives of the persons who receive services.
The main building is located at 8300 South Austin Avenue, Burbank, IL
where over 120 individuals attend the Day Program and Work Shop. The Day Program
encourages development of basic skills such as, speech, coordination, social interaction
and for higher functioning individuals, math and reading. The Work Shop gives the client
an opportunity to have a "job," just like everyone else. The clients earn a paycheck and
more importantly, they are proud of their accomplishments. Some of the activities in
the Work Shop are; packing, light assembly, mass mailings, sorting, collating and
labeling, affixing pins to buttons, affixing UPC stickers to Burger King plastic bags,
Also, there are Employment Services for those individuals who are
capable of working outside of the Work Shop. Vocational assessment, job coaching,
training, resume writing and vocational placement are provided by trained staff.
Several clients have been placed in "main stream" jobs thanks to this program.
The development of the client's social abilities is also considered.
Clients enjoy bowling, swimming, arts & crafts, exercise programs, fieldtrips (zoo,
museums, boat rides, etc.) and weekly Social Night where various games and activities
are provided, often with community volunteers.
Garden Center Services also provides residential living for
approximately 35 clients. Higher functioning clients live in Community Integrated
Living Assistance (CILA) homes. These homes teach the clients how to make basic meals,
clean, do laundry and plan a budget (to the best of their ability.) The clients have
their own room and are transported daily to the main building.
The more profoundly disabled residents live in the 15 bed Immediate
Care Facility (ICF) located at 8345 South Austin Avenue, Burbank, IL. These individuals
also have their own room and require 24 hours-a-day assistance for all their basic needs
(bathing, oral hygiene, grooming, dressing, etc). Clients help with meal preparation,
meal clean-up, laundry, etc. The ICF is where Father Andrew conducts a prayer service
on the first Monday of each month.
Father Andrew started visiting the ICF 9 years ago. The clients look
forward to each visit and always ask the same question,"when's the Priest coming?" Each
month Father reads a short story from the Children's Bible that St. Luke provided for
each client. The stories are simple enough for the clients to understand and they have
questions after each story.
After the story, Father conducts a short prayer service. The clients
sing along and participate enthusiastically. Each month they have some family member or
friend that needs our prayers. Father's homily is on the clients' level and often
invokes spirited interaction. We have blessed fruit, celebrated Valentines Day, St.
Pat's Day, Paska, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and of course, Christmas. St. Nick has
visited each year and given out gold coins. Father also brings something to share from
his trips. After the prayer service, Father and other members of St. Luke's join the
clients in snack time and interact on a social level.
There have been two client deaths over the past few years and Father
has been a source of comfort for the clients. In one case where there was no wake or
funeral service, Father was asked by Garden Center to hold a memorial service for the
ICF clients so that they could have closure to their loss of a fellow resident.
Father Andrew and St. Luke's members, Mary Kincaid, Alex Zimney, John
Verderber, Caye Caswick, Stea Zekios, have joined the clients on a regular basis over the
past year. I thank them all for their participation - the clients have grown to care for
them and our St. Luke family.
I believe that our monthly visits are very important to the clients
because attending the service is always their choice and each month, all the clients
choose to attend the service. I believe it is also very important to the members of St.
Luke's who attend on a regular basis because it is always their choice to attend and
they always do. Please join us for one of the monthly visits and enrich your life as
well as those at Garden Center Services.