Garden Center Services (GCS) has supported persons with developmental disabilities and their families for over 60 years.
In 1956, a group of courageous parents founded the agency as an alternative to the restrictive and isolated care of the state’s institutional settings.
GCS started as a classroom organized and overseen by a group of volunteers in a donated space above the garages at Reavis High School. GCS is now a multi-program agency that strives to promote the skills, dignity and personhood of each individual who attends its programs.
Currently, GCS provides training, educational, work and volunteer experiences for 140 participants through its two community-based day programs, one in Mt. Greenwood and the other located in Burbank. GCS also provides 24/7 supports for 75 of those individuals in homes throughout the surrounding communities.
GCS Day Program Services provide a safe, supportive and stimulating environment where participants can focus on their personal goals related to vocational training, life-skills enhancement or real work-for-pay opportunities. To meet these objectives, the agency has invested in the development of a thoughtfully designed, multifaceted curriculum that draws on the interests and input of participants.
Major employment program offerings include the GCS Works! Program and GCS’s newest initiative, the Community Employment Program.
In the GCS Works! Program, participants provide quality controlled finishing services including the following: gluing, tying, folding, labeling, collating, stamping, inserting, sealing, product attachment, packing, assembly of kits/bags, information packets/folders and more.
Individuals in the GCS Community Employment Program receive job training, coaching and shadowing supports that allow individuals to ultimately gain paid work at local businesses. Any business interested in finishing services or finding a dedicated, hard-working employee is encouraged to contact GCS.
The GCS Residential Program supports a number of individuals to live in their own home. In 1989, GCS opened its first home in Burbank. Today, GCS supports individuals in 11 homes in surrounding communities.
All of the homes are staffed full-time by dedicated employees who have completed a comprehensive staff-training program. Each resident is supported to learn skills such as self-care, cooking, laundry and many other tasks needed to be as independent as possible.
GCS receives its funding from the state of Illinois. In recent years, the unpredictable nature of payments and lack of a rate increase for services (GCS has received no cost-of-living increase for nine years) have greatly affected GCS’s ability to fulfill its mission for those it serves.
In an effort to lessen the impact that Illinois’ financial situation exerts over quality services, GCS opened Second Chance Thrift Shoppe in July 2008.
Second Chance Thrift Shoppe is located in downtown Lemont and is open six days a week. The nearly all-volunteer crew is very choosy with the items they put out for sale, and shoppers will find everything from antiques and jewelry to athletic equipment and furniture.
To support the work of Garden Center Services by volunteering, partnering with its employment programs or donating, call (773) 941-4151, ext. 229, or visit the website at gardencenterservices.org.
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