Winter 2018 Newsletter

Winter 2018 Newsletter

We hope you enjoy our Winter 2018 Newsletter, now with a new brand new look and online format.

From the CEO

A message from Helping Hand Center’s CEO, Bill Dwyer.
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Bill DwyerHello Everyone,

The holiday season is always a great way to fill our hearts with joy and reflect on the most poignant times in our lives. I am of Irish and Italian heritage, so when it comes to the holidays (or any celebration) my family certainly knew how to make it memorable! I have also, through my 20 plus years of nonprofit work, been part of many moving celebrations that provided inspiration and energy to carry me through the years.

Each time I attended a Helping Hand Center gathering, I was so encouraged by genuine feelings of holiday well wishes. Events at Helping Hand Center are not obligatory but are planned as a true opportunity to bring people together and connect our hearts. It was different for me than other events; Helping Hand Center’s event intertwined me in its mission. Families, Team members, Clients and Board members all came together because they truly wanted to celebrate with each other.

Having this sense of family is what makes Helping Hand Center unique. Our organization has a special something with our community, and when we let our guard down we are able to feel a human connection. This sentiment is not just felt during the holiday season, but throughout the year and embraces everyone.

I know for so many of you reading this, I am not saying anything new. My response to that is this – share it with as many people as you know! Talk, Tweet, Post and Snapchat to get others engaged in and passionate about our mission. Let us make 2018 a year to remember. I look forward to meeting your family and friends so we can show them the many ways Helping Hand Center can be their place to make a difference in the community and invest in people’s lives.

Bill Dwyer
Bill Dwyer
Chief Executive Officer
Helping Hand Center

Hat Trick Bash Fundraiser!
Saturday, March 24
Register now!

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Many Hands, One Heart

Supporters were encouraged to share their stories about “The Heart of Helping Hand” as part of this year’s Giving Tuesday celebration.
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Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Traditionally at Helping Hand Center, Giving Tuesday was only acknowledged by the Philanthropy Department through an online campaign to garner support during the holidays. However, this year, we decided to do something a little different and use Giving Tuesday as a way to celebrate all the talented and dedicated team members at Helping Hand Center.

Staff, families, clients, and community members were invited to participate in Giving Tuesday by sharing their Helping Hand stories. “One of the key tenets of Giving Tuesday is creating a global culture of giving,” said Associate Director of Philanthropy, Emily Mantucca. “We do that in our small community by calling upon family, friends, and those affected by our mission to share their stories.” The Philanthropy Team offered pizza, drinks, snack, desserts, and t-shirts to anyone willing to talk about what they felt was the “Heart of Helping Hand.” Throughout the day, over sixty staff and family members shared stories of how they came to Helping Hand Center or some of the biggest successes they’ve experienced while with the organization.

Many Hands One Heart
Developmental Trainer, Sheri Benson shares her story as part of Giving Tuesday.

“I came to interview with Helping Hand Center because I have a brother who has a disability who will one day need the services we provide,” said Director of Quality Control, Megan Gonzales while sharing her story during Giving Tuesday. “When I got here for the interview and did the tour I saw how invested the staff were and how much meaning it brought to the people who are served here. It was really powerful because that is something I want my brother to have in the future and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Families also had the opportunity to share their stories with friends online through our “Many Hands, One Heart” digital fundraising platform. Many families took full advantage of the new tool and garnered donations and awareness from dozens of new supporters. In total, we raised nearly $29,000 on Giving Tuesday, which includes $8,600 in matching funds from the Coleman Foundation. Whether you shared your story, built a fundraiser, or made a donation, we would like to thank all those who supported the children and adults served through Helping Hand Center by participating in Giving Tuesday this year.

Read all our Giving Tuesday Stories:

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Acing the Interview

Partnerships from local businesses are vital in preparing adults with disabilities to join the workforce and live more fulfilling and independent lives.
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Employment plays a large role in gaining independence and increasing access to the community, which is why we are so grateful to all the local businesses that partner with Helping Hand Center to promote job preparation and skills. Most recently, the employees of Countryside Bank visited our Empower program to conduct some mock interviews with a number of our client job-seekers.

When prepping for interviews with Employment Services staff, job-seekers are more familiar with the questions and the interviewer, so answers tend to become redundant and reproduced. But when hiring professionals step in, clients are given an opportunity to test their interview skills in a more candid and authentic environment. “We do interviews with clients all the time,” said Associate Director of Employment Services, Beth Hooton, “but this spices it up and presents more like a real interview.”

Local businesses benefit from these partnerships as it improves public perception and visibility, as well as taps into a group of dedicated employees who are interested in typically high-turnover positions. It is not uncommon for a company to participate in a mock interview session and walk away with one or two potential candidates. Working with non-profits like Helping Hand Center to fill open positions can also help to increase morale for current employees.

In addition to conducting mock interviews, local companies can assist our clients in gaining further employment skills by offering onsite tours of their businesses, reviewing resumes for job-seekers, conducting email mentoring to improve professional communication skills, and attending our semi-annual Employer Forums.

If you or your company are interested in partnering with Helping Hand Center, please contact us!

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A World of Color

The artists in Helping Hand Center’s Adult Day Program are encouraged to expand and reach outside the box.
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A Wolrd of Color
Art Team Lead, Diane Aurich, assists Elena with a painting.

It’s been said that creativity takes courage, and nowhere is that more apparent than the Art Studio in Helping Hand Center’s Adult Day Program. What began over a decade ago as merely an opportunity for adults with disabilities to work on some small art projects, has blossomed into a full-blown studio focused on self-expression.

Individuals in the art program tackle a variety of subjects in a wide array of media. A quick scan of the studio, and the viewer would be treated to the sights of colorful acrylic and watercolor paintings on both canvas and paper, three-dimensional pieces incorporating everyday household items, hand-glazed pottery fired right in the studio, and an assortment of other wares produced by any number of artists in our program.

The variety of media keeps clients engaged and interested, as well as allows staff to accommodate those who may have adaptive needs or other barriers in creating their art. For many individuals, seemingly simple tasks, such as collecting supplies or making a mark on the canvas, are a challenge. Some struggle to hold a brush or stray from a single spot on the canvas, in which case, hand-over-hand guidance is employed by staff.

In addition to improving tactile skills, like fine and gross motor functions and following step-by-step instruction, art plays a pivotal role in self-expression and individuality for a client at Helping Hand Center. Most pieces are kept abstract to allow for maximum artistic input from the client. While the artists have complete control over their piece, staff members may help them decide on placement, medium, and color selection through a series of questions. “It gives them ownership and lets them be more creative,” said Art Team Lead, Diane Aurich.

Diane recalls an individual named Katie who, upon first joining the art program, only sat on the floor and refused to participate. But with the encouragement of staff and peers, one day Katie stood to make a mark on a canvas that the group was painting. Not only has she been participating in the program ever since, but she’s even developed her own individual style through unique stroke patterns and color selections. “When you see Katie’s stuff, you know it,” said Aurich.

In addition to producing the art, clients are also invited to help sell the pieces at local fairs. The experience helps clients to improve money skills and social interaction in the community. Moreover, individuals are given an opportunity to advocate for themselves and spread awareness for the work people with disabilities are doing in the arts.

Fine art pieces created by the artists in the Adult Day Program are also included in the silent auction at the Helping Hand Foundation’s Annual Gala.


If you are interested in supporting Helping Hand Center’s artists, please join us for our first ever Gallery Night on Saturday, February 24.

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Lyons Township Mental Health Commission

When the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission stops by for a visit, a group of clients takes the lead in the kitchen.
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Each year, the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission provides Helping Hand Center with over one-million dollars to support our growing programs and clinical services. The commission is a local planning and funding body working to enhance community services for persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse problems.

The Lyons Township Mental Health Commission funds services at Helping Hand Center such as the Total Communication Program (TCP). The program employs a team of three staff – a Speech/Language Pathologist, a Behavior Support worker, and a Behavior Analyst – to assist adults with disabilities achieve greater independence through increased communication skills. “To build functional independence is the biggest goal,” said Speech/Language Pathologist, Molly Richardville. “It’s doing what we can to help these clients get more independence within their community.”

Traditionally, individuals with communication issues aren’t afforded many opportunities to explore their communities because of the difficulty they have expressing their interests and needs. However, one of the largest successes of program has been the ability to provide outings to clients with the aid of the TCP team. Through the use of a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or an iPad, staff members assist clients in communicating wants and needs while out in the community. These outings, in addition to providing an enjoyable recreation opportunity for the individuals, also offer valuable communication skills and experiences that can be transferred to the home or community trips without the support of a TCP staff member.

Lyons Township Mental Health Commission
PJ teaches commission members to prepare ingredients for a recipe.

In October, the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission held their monthly board meeting in the new Empower area of our Adult Services Building. In addition to receiving updates on TCP and other services that the commission supports, board members were invited to experience some of the programming that our clients participate in every day. Several clients from Empower took the lead in teaching the commission some of the skills they learned while in the new program. After reading directions aloud, the clients lead the commission members through a recipe step by step. Our client leaders ran stations in which they taught the commission how to measure ingredients, roll out dough, or chop fruit before placing the final pastry into the oven. And later during the meeting, commission members were treated to a tasty treat,served by their teachers from earlier.

Learning the separate steps needed to complete a recipe – such as measuring and following written directions – not only help our clients achieve independence in their home, but also provide transferable skills for future employment opportunities. And by teaching the same steps to the members of the Mental Health Commission, our clients are able to demonstrate comprehension and retention of those skills.

We are incredibly grateful to the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission for their ongoing support of programs like TCP and Empower, which help children and adults served through Helping Hand Center lead more independent and meaningful lives.

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The HoliDAZE

Get your recap on all our recent holiday celebrations!
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The Holidaze
The Perez family poses in the holiday photo booth.

As it often does, this holiday season came and went in a whirlwind at Helping Hand Center. And after countless well-wishes, lots of celebrating, and several parties, we’re finally ready to put a bow on this holiday season.

Through a partnership with the LaGrange Council of the Knights of Columbus, Helping Hand Center hosted a holiday party specifically for the children served through our Outpatient Clinic, as well as their families. Therapists from the clinic organized a ring toss, obstacle course, and sing-a-long in our therapy rooms. While keeping guests entertained and in the holiday spirit, the activities also demonstrate the therapeutic benefits of many of the services we offer through our programs. Over 150 guests participated in activities, sang songs, and joined us for a holiday celebration dinner, before Santa arrived to distribute presents to the children.

The Holidaze
Gary and sister Robin enjoy the Holiday Performance.

Earlier in the month, Helping Hand Center introduced our first ever Jingle Jam holiday celebration, thanks to the generous support of US Bank. The event began with a holiday performance in the Wellness Center from the adults served through our Day Program and Empower program. The performance featured songs from our hand-chime group, dance group, and choirs, as well as a special reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic story, The Polar Express.

The Holidaze
Music Therapist, Lily Paterno conducts the chimes group.

Following the performance, guests were greeted with holiday treats in the atrium, including hot cocoa provided by Starbucks and an assortment of “bundtinis” provided by Nothing Bundt Cakes. Gingerbread houses donated by the culinary students at College of DuPage adorned several of our activity tables, where guests were invited to play holiday-themed games. The event concluded with a raffle of various gift cards to local restaurants and businesses, as well as an iPad.

The Jingle Jam was organized by the Engagement Ambassadors – a group of Helping Hand Center’s emerging leaders tasked with increasing family and staff engagement with our mission. Over three-hundred guests – including families, clients, staff, and community partners – were in attendance at this year’s event. If you missed this year’s celebration, don’t worry – because there will be plenty of opportunities to celebrate at Helping Hand Center throughout the year!

Family Picnic
Saturday, June 23

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Calendar of Events

Winter 2018 Newsletter

February 9
Annual Pasta Supper
Helping Hand Center | 5:30pm

February 24
Gallery Night
Adult Services Building | 5:00pm

March 16

March 24
Hat Trick Bash Fundraiser
115 Bourbon Street | 4:00pm

March 26 – 30
SCHOOL CLOSED | Spring Vacation

April 13

19th Annual GalaApril 14
19th Annual Gala
Drury Lane Oakbrook | 6:00pm

April 27
AGENCY CLOSED | Staff In-Service

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