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LifeWorks fundraiser helps with endeavors

Connections gets longer day, equipment to better serve people with disabilities

September 23, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

Guests at the LifeWorks fundraising dinner won't just get to learn about the food in their fine dining experience, they'll also get a first-hand account of how their donations help handicapped people learn the skills they need to get a job, maintain skills and integrate with the community.

The fundraiser comes only a week and a half before the open house for LifeWorks' newly re-vamped day habilitation program.

A full house is expected at "A Night for LifeWorks," 5:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Willow Ridge Restaurant, said LifeWorks Community Services Executive Director Teresa Naughton.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
LifeWorks Community Services clients John Schlueger, left, and Wanda Thornton enjoy a game of air hockey recently during an afternoon at the Connections program.

Most of the organization's funding comes from Medicaid, Naughton said, but there are additional expenses that are not covered. These costs are paid instead by the LifeWorks Charitable Foundation.

"It's important so we can have stable, supplemental funding for things we're unable to do with the other funding LifeWorks gets," she said. "We have the Foundation to supplement programs - if we wanted to set up a new home, for example.

"The regular funding is set up as fee for service, so there's no good way to get funding for start-up costs. Dollars earned from our foundation can enable LifeWorks to begin new endeavors."

Fact Box

If you go:

Connections Program open house

WHEN: 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 8

WHERE: LifeWorks vocational center, 1303 A St.

FREE to the public.

LifeWorks has been offering vocational, residential and community support services to people with disabilities since 1965. In addition to the vocational site on A Street, the program gives 24-hour-a-day care at nine homes in the community, and has a presence at the Wahkonsa Apartments, Naughton said.

Last year 180 individuals were served at the LifeWorks facility. Sixty-seven percent of them had an intellectual disability, about 30 percent had mental illness, and 2.8 percent had a different disability, such as a brain injury. For more information, visit

A night for LifeWorks

As with last year's fundraiser, this year will feature Chef Michael Hirst from Iowa Central Community College. Hirst will demonstrate how to make the dishes in the four-course meal that will be served.

"Chef Michael does a phenomenal job. It's interesting to watch him and listen to him tell about the food," Naughton said.

The menu includes roasted beets, shaved fennel, seared scallops with bacon polenta - made from coarsely ground cornmeal - and pea foam, pork loin and cinnamon mascarpone. There will also be a silent auction with around 20 items and a video presentation.

A limited number of tickets are still available. Call Naughton at 576-2126 for more information.

Charlene Kelley, a substitute teacher at Southeast Webster Grand, will speak on how LifeWorks has helped her family. Kelley's youngest daughter, Ada Kelley, 20, has been receiving services from LifeWorks for four and a half years.

"They have made my life easier as a mom, in that they have helped her with daily living skills," Charlene Kelley said. "They help her and supervise cleaning her room, helping her learn how to do laundry, things as simple as folding and putting away clothes.

"When they're working with Ada, that frees up my time so that I can do other household tasks, or shopping, or just have a break."

They also sometimes take Ada Kelley on excursions into the community, she said, to teach skills such as how to use a library and how to go shopping.

"It's very important," said Charlene Kelley. "I don't know if I would go so far as to say, 'I don't know what I'd do without them,' because you make do and get by with whatever you have. But now that I've had these experiences with them, I don't know what I'd do without them."

Changes to the Connections program

The habilitation program, located at LifeWorks' vocational center, is undergoing some changes. It's expanding from a half-day program to a full-day program and some equipment is being added.

Also, its name has been changed from Day Activities to the Connections Program.

An open house will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 8 at the vocational center to celebrate the new program. Snacks will be provided.

Naughton explained habilitation.

"It's not rehabilitation, just habilitation," Naughton said.

Not only does it give the individuals some place to go, but "that program also provides training in areas like communication, socialization, wellness, community mobility, activities of daily living like cooking, and community integration," he said.

"Historically, when people have come to our vocational site, maybe they work in the morning and they want something to do in the afternoon, so they've gone to our day habilitation program," she said.

Because of budget cuts, more people have not been funded to work, so they needed some alternate program during the day.

There are several new pieces of equipment at the center, including a basketball hoop, new computers and an air hockey table that can flip over and turn into a pool table.

Other aspects of the program will remain the same, such as outside activities like bowling, mall walking, trips to local parks and volunteer opportunities.

Day Activities Coordinator Jane Hogan said one of the best parts of the program is something they've always done.

"Our favorite thing is getting out in the community," she said. "People in the community can see how friendly and accepting they are, because they say hi to everybody, so hopefully the community integration thing will allow people to see that they're like everybody else."

The expanding program actually makes things more intimate, she said.

"I think the most rewarding part is something we're doing differently too - as we get bigger we're dividing into smaller groups. This morning I took a group of six to mall walking instead of 14 or 15."

This helps the group stick out less, Hogan said.

"Also, you can really enjoy them more, kind of like quality time with your kids. It's just easier to have quality time with a smaller group."

Connections participants will also begin competing in Special Olympics events, which occur throughout the year. Hogan will be one of the coaches.

"I think the next one is basketball. We're too late for the bowling," she said.



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