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Garden Center Services


focus on their strengths as well as their needs.

Gerry, Mary & Shari


It’s somewhat hard to believe that a couple of days ago, on May 2nd, I celebrated my 18th year anniversary as the Executive Director of Garden Center Services. To say that the decision to accept this position changed my life would be such a huge understatement! After a long career working in this field, beginning as a direct care staff over 45 years ago, I came to this agency hoping to support the adults with developmental disabilities in ways that would respect each person’s hopes and dreams and also

At the time of my arrival the agency consisted of the one Developmental Training Program on State Road, the Intermediate Care Facility, and two community-based group homes. This in itself was quite an achievement from what started as a classroom organized and overseen by a group of volunteers in a donated space above the garages at Reavis High School in 1956! I was able to implement some very basic changes that were helpful to the agency’s bottom line, but the actual elevating transformation slowly came about as we began supporting our individuals to live community-based lives of their choosing, influenced by the unique gifts, preferences, and needs of each person. Our staff began working in partnership not only with

the person, but also with those who loved him or her, to move towards a life of connection, contribution, and meaning. It was as the culture of the agency changed that more and more individuals and their families were choosing GCS to be their service provider. Over the years we have been approached by our state funders to take responsibility for several programs that were struggling, and this also added to our numbers. The result has been the addition of ten more community living arrangements and another day program/ office location, as well as a revitalized volunteerism an d c om mun it y employment initiative. Prior to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, GCS was supporting about 140 individuals, with 75 of those persons living at one of our residential continued on page 4

GARDEN CENTER FAMILY Now You Can Use Your Amazon Phone App to Earn $$ for GCS! You are probably aware by now that you can earn money for GCS (at no cost to you) when you shop Amazon by going to www.AmazonSmile.com, but did you know that you can change one setting on your Amazon phone app and never have to worry about making sure you use the smile site again? How it works: 1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 2. Select the main menu ( ) & scroll to Programs & Features then tap AmazonSmile 3. Select Garden Center Services as your charity 4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app Now, each time you shop Amazon on your phone app, you will earn $$ for GCS - no extra steps required!

GARDEN CENTER’S SELF-ADVOCACY GROUP Garden Center’s self-advocacy group, the Garden Center Dream Team, meets Fridays from 10:00am-11:00am with the support of Garden Center Behavior Analyst, Nicki Martinez. Members who are working from home attend via Google Meets. The eightmember group has been active at GCS since the founding members were inspired to start their own advocacy group following their attendance at the 2018 Speak Up & Speak Out Self-Advocacy Summit in Springfield, IL. Since that time, the group has been active in advocacy projects and presenting at conferences; making their 2020 Speak Up Speak Out Summit presentation via Zoom. The Team recently completed the application to be recognized as a member group by the Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance. The Alliance is a statewide network of selfadvocates, advocacy groups, and allies in Illinois that work together to make life and services better for people with disabilities in our communities. On April 27th the Dream Team participated virtually in the Going Home Advocacy Day event put on by The Arc of Illinois’s Going Home Coalition. The event focused on advocacy for the over 1600 individuals with disabilities in Illinois that still live in state institutions. Keep an eye out for what this motivated group does next!

Nicki, Becca, Victoria, Jonathan, Katie, Adam, Ashley, Patrick & Melissa

TENDING OUR GARDEN The past year has been hard on all of us for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was the sudden and drastic reduction in the amount of physical exercise we get. Being stuck at home has taken us out of our daily routines impacting not only our opportunity to go to the gym, but it also generally reduced the day-to-day exercise we get just making our way to work, the grocery, and doing all the other things we used to do without even thinking about it.


This March, GCS received a $12,500 grant from the Blue Island Healthcare Foundation

Garden Center is pleased to announce that we have received a grant from the Blue Island Community Healthcare Foundation designed to help us address this issue. The Foundation granted GCS $12,500 to contract with an aerobics instructor, yoga coach, and fitness coordinator who will work directly with those we support as well as develop a wellness curriculum for our staff to implement on an ongoing basis. Additionally, the grant will allow GCS to purchase basic fitness equipment for the new curriculum that will be located at our State Road program site.

COMMUNITY DAY SERVICES IS BACK! Garden Center’s Community Day Services (CDS) is back and we couldn’t be happier! Since re-opening the program on March 3rd, the CDS team and the folks we serve have hit the ground running. The moment the doors opened, everyone was ready to start up some of their old favorites like, Bingo, Game Shows, Karaoke, and Morning Exercise. We also continued to work on curriculum as we have been doing in the homes throughout the pandemic. Since we’ve G eorge cooks up a snack been back we have tackled several new in the GCS kitche n subjects. We learned about Women’s History Month, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and even took a virtual tour of Ireland! We also learned about folktales and fables and created a few of our own. We learned about fads throughout history and revived a few too - there are people at GCS right now sporting mood rings.

Glad to be back!

Because everyone in our day program is vaccinated, we are able to start heading back out into our community. Groups have resumed volunteering at Animals for Awareness, Oak Lawn Children’s Museum, and Meals on Wheels. Our volunteer groups have also resumed picking up donations from Panera and KFC, and making deliveries for Garden Center’s General Store. Many of the people in our Supported Employment Program have also started back to work at several locations including McDonald’s, Prairie Trails Library, Chick-Fil-A, WashU Carwash, and to GCS’s reception area.

s a comfoortose at n a h t a n Jo named M ss giant caalts for Awarene Anim


We are incredibly grateful to be back, at GCS, together again.



Mark your

We have resumed several in-house groups like Social/Emotional Skills Group, Supported Employment Group, and Self-Advocacy group to name a few. We are hoping to add gardening, walking, and cooking clubs to the mix very soon.

AUG 7 is the

Tentative Date for the

2021 GCS Super Sunny Walk ‘n Roll!

If Illinois coronavirus numbers continue to decline, and provided such outdoor gatherings are allowed in the Restore Illinois phase for our region on that date, GCS plans to hold our in-person Super Sunny Walk ‘n Roll this August. This year’s event will likely look different than those in years past, but we are excited at the possibility of celebrating together.

August 7th

If things go as planned, watch for your Walk Packet at the end of June!



Growing dignity and independence 8333 S. Austin Ave. Burbank, IL 60459 10444 S. Kedzie Chicago, IL 60655 phone 773-941-4151 email info@gardencenterservices.org web www.GardenCenterServices.org


John Dahlke

Vice President

Donna Blair


Anthony Di Miele


Cindy Malloy


Lisa Beemsterboer Shannon Benaitis Mary Gill Dr. Chris Grunow Rep. Fran Hurley Ava Rhodes - Smith Maria Zeimen, OSF

OUR MISSION Advancing lives of connection, contribution, and meaning for persons with developmental disabilities and the individuals that support them.

Terry will have served GCS as Director of Nursing for exactly 18 years when she retires at the end of June

It is fitting that Thursday, May 6th, begins National Nurses Week; because this week, we want to take time to thank our own Garden Center Services Director of Nursing, Terry Viebach, RN, for her years of service and her amazing support throughout this past year. Twenty-twenty was full of challenges Garden Center never faced before and hope to never face again. We are proud, with Terry’s support, to have made it through without loosing any of the people we serve to COVID.

Terry probably couldn’t have imagined the year before her retirement would be such a test, but it showcased her many gifts and her dedication to those we serve and their well-being; the same dedication that she has shown since she started at Garden Center almost 18 years ago. Besides making a difference for those supported at Garden Center, Terry has had an impact on the lives of many people both with and without disabilities across the state. She has been a nurse for 40 years, serving in the disability field for the past 26, and becoming a Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse in 1998. Later, Terry served the Illinois chapter of the national organization that certified her in the field, the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association (DDNA), as their Secretary and Treasurer for 15 years. Terry made one of her biggest impacts for people with disabilities in the state by taking on the role of Master Nurse Trainer for the State of Illinois where, for 12 years, she trained the nurses who provide care in the disability field; positively influencing the services for people with disabilities throughout Illinois for years to come. Terry will be retiring from Garden Center at the end of June and she will be greatly missed. Thank you for all you have done Terry, we wish you a very happy and well-deserved retirement! continued from page 1

locations. This past year has been an unimaginable, very challenging year. I am so pleased to share that by taking incredible precautions, utilizing very creative staffing schedules, scrupulously gathering all the necessary Personal Protective Equipment, and educating our staff on the latest CDC guidance, we have been able to come this far with only a handful of active cases, two hospitalizations, and no fatalities! I cannot say enough about our employees, up and down the line, that have moved me by the care, kindness, and dedication they have demonstrated. The joy and meaning that this position has brought into my life has been immeasurable. My life has been so enriched by the individuals we serve, by their families, by our supporters, and by the finest staff I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I am proud of what we have accomplished together so far, and am confident that we will continue to find ways to improve the quality of life for the persons we serve, and one another. I want to express my deepest gratitude to each of you and commit that I will strive to exhibit respect, empowerment, and compassion for you all as we continue on this journey together.

Profile for Garden Center Services

GCS Newsletter The Leaflet ISSUE MAY JUN 2021  


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