LARC gives back to Lansing

Residents work and shop local

by Katie Arvia

LANSING, Ill. (December 29, 2017) – Serving people with developmental disabilities has been LARC’s mission since first opening its doors in 1956. Originally a school, LARC now serves approximately 100 adult clients each year and provides them the opportunity to work, live, and participate in the broader community.

Local work

LARC collaborates with several local businesses to provide work and a paycheck for their clients. The work varies from packaging to-go utensils for Glenwood Oaks restaurant to assembling boxes for BMW auto parts.

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LARC Executive Director Ernie Gonzalez shows one of the jobs his clients do—packaging a specified number of nasal spray units into cartons that will be shipped to distributors. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

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LARC also packages utensils for Glenwood Oaks restaurant and (above) assembles specialty shipping boxes for BMW auto parts. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

While most clients work inside the 16,000-square-foot workshop on the LARC campus, several other people work outside the building. A janitorial crew of six works throughout downtown Lansing cleaning up the streets as well as cleaning the Lynwood Roller Rink a few times per week.

“The excitement that happens with this paycheck that they get every two weeks is really something special,” said Ken Sadowski, Public Relations Director for LARC. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment. It gives them a sense of belonging.”

Dining out

Other than working for local businesses, LARC clients give back to the community by choosing a Lansing restaurant to dine at every payday for their aptly named “payday dinners.” In the past, they have visited Baker’s Square, Mancino’s, and Bohemian Joe’s.

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LARC patronizes Lansing businesses as much as possible. Waldo Cooney’s pizza was a highlight of their Christmas party. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Local entertainment

In addition to the payday dinners, LARC clients also participate in a monthly dance put on by Thornton Township, weekly trips to the Lansing Public Library, and bowling nights on Monday.

“They do things that you and I might do,” said Ernie Gonzalez, LARC’s Executive Director. “Our goal for the coming year is to get them out in the community more and become active members of the community.”

In the community

Additionally, LARC also offers home-based care and has 11 group homes, referred to as CILAs (community integrated living arrangements), throughout Lansing that house 4–5 clients each. LARC is currently hiring Residential Living Assistants to work in the group homes and ensure clients’ safety while assisting with daily activities.

Although several clients already work outside of LARC’s main facility, one of their goals for 2018 is to get more of their clients jobs throughout Lansing. Gonzalez says all they need is a chance.

“We want other organizations to let somebody be a bus boy or wash dishes or do something to get them out in the community,” he explained. “We want to be able to take them out and show them that they can have the same kind of experiences out there.”

Greater involvement

Moving forward into 2018, Gonzalez says he hopes that clients will be afforded the opportunity to attend events such as concerts, dances, and church, just to name a few. Any residents or businesses that are interested in working with LARC are encouraged to call and offer up their suggestions.

“Think about ways to reach out, think about ways to embrace this organization, think about ways to get involved,” said Sadowski. “Make contributions that the clients of LARC are making back to the community.”

In the future, LARC hopes to have open houses, internships, and more events that allow Lansing residents to learn more about LARC as well as get involved. Awareness is key to successful partnerships.

Contributions and collaboration

“I want people to realize that our clients do contribute to this community,” Gonzalez said. “LARC is changing. LARC wants to be a partner and collaborate with the folks in Lansing. We want to give our clients experiences that they haven’t had before.”

LARC is located at 19043 Wentworth Avenue in Lansing, Illinois. Call 708-474-1540 or email Ken Sadowski for more information or to get involved.

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