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Posted by Avenues in News on 5/16/2018

The dedication and achievements of Avenues to Independence were recognized by Park Ridge City Council on May 7 with the mayor reading a proclamation. The organization, which is based in Park Ridge, creates opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live, learn and work in the most independent settings possible.

Through a video presentation, Avenues’ 65-year history and objectives were introduced beginning with postman William Knaack noticing that children with special needs were not at school with their siblings. Local school districts had not established programming for their education so they remained at home. Unwilling to let this slide, Knaack organized classes at First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge for his daughter, Valerie, who had down syndrome, and nine other children on Oct. 5, 1953. This led to the establishment of Park Ridge Aid for Retarded Children. With no federal or local financial support available, donations helped to cover expenses that first year. The organization was then renamed Northwest Suburban Aid for the Retarded to provide services beyond Park Ridge’s borders. The operation expanded at the Community Church, later receiving its own facility, an old house, donated by the American Legion.

A time of transition occurred when public educational services for people with disabilities had begun to be offered. The students were now of an age where residential living facilities, day support and employment were necessary to maintain their improved quality of life. A growing respect for people with disabilities led to the organization’s name change to Avenues to Independence.

Avenues continues to deliver on Knaack’s promise to put aside old ideas on what is possible. Today’s clients are gifted with independence and dignity. Avenues works with over 200 individuals with down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. Their pride of accomplishment for being productive members of society are presented in the video’s testimonials. They spoke of how much they love their jobs, whether in a grocery store or through the workshop, how they love the exercise, dancing and art classes. But most of all, their independence. It means everything to them to live in a group home and to be responsible adults.

Mayor Marty Maloney read the proclamation focusing on how a campaign started in the early 1970s to construct an apartment building which would offer independent living for clients.

“In January 1978, the Sasser Family House in Park Ridge was opened and provided a home for 20 adults with moderate disabilities,” read Mayor Maloney. “Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Avenues continued the expansion of its residential opportunities with the construction of another family house in Park Ridge and the purchase of single family homes in Des Plaines, Arlington Heights, Niles and Park Ridge.”

Avenues runs 23 group homes and apartments in the northwest suburbs.

Mayor Maloney said that there are now 60 adults in the residential program and that there are an additional 100 people on a waiting list for services. A work program includes assembly and packaging jobs for local businesses. It had originally been established in a converted home. Today, the program operates in a Wheeling industrial facility where 150 adults with developmental disabilities learn and perform a wide variety of assembly and packaging jobs.

“With the help of generous donations and grants, a large renovation of the facility will transform the Wheeling work center into an adult learning center that will include an expanded and upgraded computer learning center, a demonstration kitchen with cooking classes, movement and exercise programs to learn about healthy lifestyles, an art studio for budding artists/entrepreneurs and work-training classes for community employment,” said Maloney.

After reading the proclamation, the mayor recognized the organization’s commitment of 65 years and hoped that it continued to succeed in providing clients with independence and dignity.

Avenues to Independence is located at 515 Busse Hwy., Park Ridge.


Tags: 65th anniversary , park ridge , community , park ridge city council , sasser family house

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