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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

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UH Receives Anonymous $4 Million Gift to Support Creative Writing and Other Liberal Arts Programs

Press Release – HOUSTON, Sept. 17, 2018 – The University of Houston College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) has received a $4 million anonymous gift in support of its Creative Writing Program, among multiple CLASS initiatives. The gift will also fuel research activity in the humanities and social sciences and advance the college’s mission of transforming today’s students into tomorrow’s global leaders, successful entrepreneurs and industry innovators. This gift comes at a period of unprecedented growth, expansion and opportunity for CLASS and is the single largest donation that the college has received.

“This gift matters because it provides support for key strategic initiatives in CLASS, surrounding student success, faculty success and community engagement. Numerous academic departments/programs, especially creative writing, will benefit from this generous gift,” said Antonio D. Tillis, dean of CLASS and M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies. “The University of Houston is fortunate to exist in a community where individual donors want to be stakeholders in everything we do to enhance the academic experience for our students.”

This strategic investment includes funding for a Graduate Student Diversity Endowment, a CLASS Faculty Research Initiatives Endowment, a Creative Writing Program Graduate Student Community Partnership Endowment and two Endowed College Professorships in Creative Writing.

The gift supports and celebrates the college’s commitment to community engagement through the Creative Writing Program and other academic units. Additionally, it will help attract and retain top scholars, particularly in creative writing.

“This handsome gift is an investment in academic quality and faculty, particularly in renowned programs like creative writing and the humanities, helping to ensure that the University of Houston offers enlightened opportunities for its students,“ said Eloise Brice, vice president for University Advancement.

The contribution adds to the goal of raising $1 billion in the UH “Here, We Go” Campaign, the first major fundraising campaign in more than 25 years in support of University priorities, including the arts and social sciences.


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Brenner Foundation Announces Inaugural Veteran Services Gala at The Venetian in Garfield, NJ; Proceeds will Install Diaper Banks in New Jersey

Press Release – GARFIELD, NJ – Brenner Foundation will be holding its inaugural Veteran Services Gala at The Venetian in Garfield, NJ on Thursday, October 18th. Proceeds from the Veteran Services Gala will support a partnership with two powerhouse organizations that are well known in the community for their work with veterans. The Bergen County Division of Veteran Services and the Catholic Charities SOS Stakeholders Group will work in association with Brenner Foundation to install diaper banks in New Jersey, which will ! provide access to clean, dry diapers to struggling veteran families in need.

The honoree at the Gala this year is Ariel “AJ” Luna who is an Army veteran and the Director of Veteran Services for Bergen County. His years of dedication in assisting veterans of the county on the various programs and benefits available to them will be recognized. “I am humbled to be the honoree for the Brenner Foundation’s Veteran Services Gala,” said Luna. “In a short period of time, I have witnessed the positive impact that they have had in northern New Jersey.”

Brenner Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of services to veterans and homeless individuals. Based in Wallington, New Jersey, their mission is to provide aid to local veterans and their families, and to support efforts to combat homelessness around the country.

Brenner Foundation was founded by Christine Brenner in 2017. “As a federal contractor, manufacturing field medical equipment for our service men and women, it is both my pleasure and my passion to support our veterans in any way I can when they return home,” said Brenner.

Bergen County Division of Veteran Services/Tracers Program

“Assisting homeless veterans is a top priority for the Bergen County Division of Veterans Services. Their volunteers’ primary mission is to locate homeless veterans and link them to community-based and VA sponsored programs and benefits.”

– AJ Luna, Director of Veteran Services for Bergen County

Cathol! ic Charities Stakeholders Group / Unmet Needs Fund

“Established to assist a Veteran with a sudden short-term financial need such as a utility bill or auto repair. 100% of the funds go to help Veterans.”

– David Pearson, Assistant Director of Veteran Services, Catholic Family & Community Services

For more information on this press release visit: http://www.getnews.info/784513/brenner-foundation-announces-inaugural-veteran-services-gala-at-the-venetian-in-garfield-nj-proceeds-will-install-diaper-banks-in-new-jersey.html


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2nd Annual ISTO Conference Brings Together Global Surf Therapy Nonprofits Changing Lives Through Surf Therapy

A consortium of 25 leading global Surf Therapy organizations, Ph.D. students and researchers gathered in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa to share latest research & practice in the Surf Therapy sector

ISTO Members (with AritzAranburu)holding the International Surf Therapy Declaration, signed by numerous professional surfers including Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore, Steph Gilmore and Courtney Conlogue.

Press Release – JEFFREYS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA (July 20, 2018) The 2nd Annual International Surf Therapy Organization Conference was held in Jeffreys Bay. Twenty-eight individual representatives attended, representing Surf Therapy and research institutions from 11 different countries around the globe. The International Surf Therapy Organization (“ISTO”) was formed in Cape Town in September 2017 by eight founding contributors. Conceived by South African NGO Waves for Change, with funding support from Comic Relief, The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the World Childhood Foundation, ISTO connects practitioners, shares best practice, and executes global research studies so that understanding and support for Surf Therapy grows.

Now in its second year, the ISTO conference brought together practitioners and researchers from across the globe to share best practice and present emerging research in the Surf Therapy space.

The results from the first global survey of the Surf Therapy sector were also shared. The survey documents surfing’s impact on at-risk populations around the world. Organizations working with veterans, children with different abilities, survivors of trauma, children in conflict with the law and adults with anxiety and depression submitted aligned data that shows Surf Therapy is improving the mental and physical health of children and adults from myriad backgrounds.

Held concurrent to the World Surf League 2018 Corona Open J-Bay surf contest, several of the world’s top male and female surfers visited the conference and signed the International Surf Therapy Declaration. The Declaration’s stated goal is to raise awareness of Surf Therapy as a health intervention and treatment, and to connect the public to the growing body of evidence that surfing and the ocean positively impact our mental health.

The conference also released a shared online toolkit for ISTO member researchers and practitioners involved in Surf Therapy around the world. Developed with contributions from leading international Surf Therapy organizations, this collaborative toolkit provides essential information for organizations looking to establish, grow and evaluate Surf Therapy programs, helping them reach and impact their target populations.

Additionally, for the first time in recorded history, Ph.D.s in Surf Therapy will be pursued by two ISTO members who aim to execute ground-breaking research in Surf Therapy and its efficacy.

Finally, the conference laid out a 12-month strategy which will culminate with the 3rd Annual International Surf Therapy Conference in Southern California, USA in October 2019. In the run-up to California, ISTO will be conducting outreach to include more Surf Therapy organizations from around the globe, including Asia-Pacific and South America regions.

For more information on the International Surf Therapy Organization and the International Surf Therapy Declaration, please visit www.intlsurftherapy.org/

Current Contributing Organizations: Waves for Change, Wave by Wave, A Walk on Water, Waves of Wellness, Liquid Therapy, The Surf Project, Kind Surf, Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, Wave Project, Indo Jax, Live for More, AmpSurf, Warrior Surf Foundation, Surf4Dem, Urban Surf for Kids, City Surf Project, Groundswell Community Project, Grom Nation, Waved Foundation, One Wave, Stoked Research, University New South Wales, Edinburgh Napier University, UNICEF, Antioch University, Comic Relief, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, World Childhood Foundation, RTI.


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The Good Class: A Gamified Social Emotional Learning Program That Mobilizes Students To Actively Participate In Doing Good

By Corey Harnish

The Good Class may be a leading solution to transform how education treats social emotional learning pedagogy

How would you feel if there was an easy way to engage youth in doing good?

What do you think would happen if being kind, volunteering, or doing, say, an environmental clean up was actually fun?

Imagine the shift that would happen, if good was the new cool.

People would want to help others!

They’d want to make a difference, right?

We think so too, and we believe that together we can make this a reality.

Introducing The Good Class

A gamified social emotional learning (SEL) platform that guides teachers and their students through a series of hands-on lessons, allowing all to experience the power of kindness and positive thinking. The Good Class includes a set of lessons that will engage students in a way that makes doing good a fun and meaningful experience.

The best part is that it’s connected to The Good Cards, our digital platform and mobile app that motivates people to go on real life kindness missions, do good deeds, and track their ripple effect.

Connecting a gamified experience with learning about SEL is a way to let students experience the positive impact doing good has on themselves and others.

Okay that’s cool! So what is social emotional learning all about anyway?

For starters, there’s a really exciting shift happening in our education system.

In the last ten years schools and districts all over have been integrating SEL into their curriculum.

Lesson plans, activities, discussions focused on important soft skills like emotional intelligence, compassion, mindfulness, and self-awareness have become a norm for many classrooms.

It’s happening right now!

Thanks to this educational shift, our youth are being empowered to not only be the leaders of tomorrow, but the Kindness Leaders of tomorrow.

Sounds awesome! Does it work?

As far as the research is showing, yeah it really does.

“In the long run, greater social and emotional competence can increase the likelihood of high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive family and work relationships, better mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged citizenship. (Hawkins, Kosterman, Catalano, Hill, & Abbott, 2008; Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015).”Edutopia.

What’s more, a 2015 study by researchers at Columbia University discovered that the measurable benefits of SEL exceed implementation costs, often by considerable amounts and researchers have also found that SEL programs are particularly beneficial for disadvantaged or low-attaining students. [1]

Since optimal results are achieved with SEL when approaches are embedded into routine educational practices and supported by professional development and training for staff we’ve integrated The Good Class into the curriculum. [2]

By doing this we are affecting these students for years to come, as a 2017 meta-analysis conducted by CASEL, University of Illinois, Chicago, Loyola University and University of British Columbia discovered that SEL continues to benefit students in terms of their social skills and academic performance years after being taught it. [3]

It’s happening right now in schools and classrooms across the world and is available for any teachers and community leaders who want to use it.

I’m a teacher, how can I bring The Good Class to my school?

Sign up today! The Good Class is live and ready for you to get involved.

We’ll help you with everything from getting the program approved by Administration to how to use The Good Cards, and even getting local press coverage like the youth at Gorzycki Middle School did!

I’m not a teacher, can I get involved too?

Sponsor The Good Class in a school near you!

Make a $50 donation to Better World International, the not-for-profit behind The Good Cards project, and we will bring The Good Class to a school or classroom of your choice!

There’s always something we can do together, so if you love the idea but are not sure about what to do, don’t be shy. Reach out to us at contact@thegoodcards.com or you can always learn more about The Good Class here.

Further reading

1 https://casel.org/impact/

2 https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/social-and-emotional-learning/

3 https://casel.org/impact/


Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit helpdevin.org.

US SIF Statement on Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2018 Introduction

“Climate risk reporting by public corporations has been hobbled by inconsistent and non-comparable data. Investors have been challenged because there is no clear disclosure regime that allows for true apples-to-apples comparisons. The Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2018 will improve reporting on climate risk which will benefit investors and clarify reporting requirements for corporations.

“While the SEC already advises that climate change risks can be material for publicly traded companies, in which case they must report on climate risks to investors, companies are not required to report on climate issues in any standardized way through their SEC filings. Furthermore, the SEC has been lax in enforcing climate change disclosures.

“US SIF has called for robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure reporting since 2009. Meaningful disclosure reporting that provides comprehensive, comparable and reliable data is beneficial to many stakeholders, not just investors.”

The US SIF Foundation’s 2016 Report On US Sustainable, Responsible And Impact Investing Trends in the United States found that money managers with $1.42 trillion in assets under management and institutional asset owners with $2.15 trillion in assets considered climate change risk in their investment analysis, more than three times the assets so affected in 2014. The 2018 Trends Report, which will be released at the end of October, will again highlight and update the extent to which investors are considering climate change concerns and risks.


Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit helpdevin.org.

Announcing the 2018 Finalists for the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program

Press Release – Washington, D.C.: The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and its imple-menting partner, Meridian International Center, are proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program. This program will bring 250 business and social entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States in September 2018 to collaborate with counterparts in busi-nesses and organizations in 20 cities across the United States. Through this exchange program, Fellows will advance their entrepreneurial ventures and build leadership skills to effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. Up to 60 U.S. hosts will be able to visit their Fellows in-country to provide guidance on their action plans while expanding their own contacts and markets abroad.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program will begin on September 20 in Detroit, Michigan, followed by four-week fellow-ships throughout the United States. The program will conclude with a two-day conference in Washington, DC, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is confirmed to address the fellows. The Fellows return to their ventures with new skills, resources, ongoing support from U.S. counterparts, and an improved network, strengthening business ties between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The 2018 YLAI Professional Fellows were selected through a competitive application process, which attracted 2,500 ap-plications. These 250 business and social entrepreneurs represent 36 countries throughout Latin America and the Carib-bean and focus on topics including, but not limited to, agriculture, clean energy, consulting, e-commerce, education, en-trepreneurship development and support, food and beverage, health care, hospitality, LGBTQI, marketing and branding, mobile applications, and women and youth empowerment. We invite you to read their profiles here.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State funded this program, which is implement-ed by Meridian International Center in partnership with 3 Day Startup and community-based members and universities throughout the United States.

About the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public -private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit https://eca.state.gov/ for more information.

For information on the YLAI Professional Fellows Exchange Program, please visit https://ylai.state.gov/.

About Meridian International Center

Meridian International Center is a premier nonprofit, global leadership organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Building on more than 55 years of experience, Meridian prepares U.S. and international leaders to meet global challeng-es and opportunities. Through various programs, Meridian delivers the approach and environment for leaders to under-stand global issues and cultures, exchange ideas, collaborate on solutions, and build valuable relationships.


Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit helpdevin.org.

GOOD+ Foundation “An Evening Of Comedy + Music” Benefit Presented By Samsung Electronics America

Michael Strahan and Seth Meyers Make Special Appearances for Benefit Evening at Carnegie Hall with Comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Leslie Jones, Gad Elmaleh and Sebastian Maniscalco, Along with Musical Performances by John Legend, Common and More

Press Release – September 13, 2018 (New York, NY) – On Wednesday, September 12, GOOD+ Foundation, a national nonprofit founded by Jessica Seinfeld that provides training and support to fathers and families living in poverty, hosted “An Evening of Comedy + Music” Benefit at Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The special evening, which raised nearly $2 million for the organization’s work helping families build stability and create an upward trajectory for their children, celebrated the organization’s accomplishments and its evolution to better engage fathers for the benefit of their children, families and communities.

The memorable night featured performances by renowned comedian and headliner Jerry Seinfeld, along with Leslie Jones, Gad Elmaleh and Sebastian Maniscalco. In addition, music superstar John Legend performed hits including “Love Me Now” and “All of Me” while Common performed alongside Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins of his supergroup, August Greene. Michael Strahan and Seth Meyers both made special guest appearances on stage.

Additional celebrities and VIP guests included Naomi Watts (Actress), Chrissy Teigen (Model), Chris Rock (Actor/Comedian), Tiffany Haddish (Actress/Comedian), Victoria Justice (Actress/Musician), Chris Harrison (Television Personality), Beth Stern (Actress/Model), Jenny Mollen (Actress/Author) and Jason Biggs (Actor, Who We Are Now), Ali Wentworth (Actress, Nightcap) and George Stephanopoulos (Chief Anchor, ABC News/Co-anchor, Good Morning America), Baron Davis (Former Pro Basketball Player), Ted Sarandos (CEO, Netflix) and Nicole Avant (former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas), Shawn “Pecas” Costner (VP of Player Relations at Roc Nation Sports), Charlotte Groeneveld (Influencer), Georgina Bloomberg (Equestrian/Author), Dr. Mehmet Oz (TV Personality), Stacey Bendet Eisner (CEO and Creative Director, Alice + Olivia) and more.

Highlights included:

  • Chrissy Teigen (wearing Valentino) supported husband and recent EGOT winner John Legend who took the stage for an emotional performance of his hits “Love Me Now,” and “All of Me” plus a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In the Dark” during the benefit.
  • Naomi Watts (Actress), Amy Schumer (Actress), and Michael Rapaport (Actor) all stopped by the post-performance party to congratulate Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld and support GOOD+ Foundation.
  • Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Ted Sarandos talked shop at the post-performance party.
  • Jessica Seinfeld opened the benefit program with remarks highlighting GOOD+ Foundation’s recent expansion to help address one of the root causes of family poverty – father absence – with emphasis on the critical impact fathers have on their children, families, and communities.
  • Recording artist, actor and activist Common performed a spoken word about a young father who regained custody of his little boy with support from GOOD+ Foundation and program partners.
  • The event was presented by Samsung Electronics America with Platinum Sponsors Johnson & Johnson, Tiedemann Advisors, Valentino and COLLINS, as well as Gold Sponsors American Express, Delta Air Lines and Hearst.

In addition to a pre-VIP reception, the party continued after the Benefit program at the nearby Ziegfeld Ballroom. The post-performance party was designed pro-bono by leading event planner and designer Bronson van Wyck and his brand event production firm WORKSHOP. Infusing life into the Ziegfeld Ballroom and perfectly blending the old with the new, WORKSHOP celebrated the venue’s rich Broadway history by creating a video art tribute to the glitz and glamour of entertainment in the gilded age. Gorgeous Art Deco mirrored bars and chesterfield couches paid a modern homage to jazz age speakeasies. Colorful lighting revived the original red and gold color palette of the iconic New York theatre for this special occasion.

About GOOD+ Foundation

GOOD+ Foundation empowers fathers and families in marginalized communities with the education and training they need to build a better life. With an early focus on mothers and children, GOOD+ expanded its programming in 2010 to strengthen its support for non-custodial and formerly incarcerated fathers to address one of the root causes of cyclical poverty: father absence. Today, the organization partners with a national network of social service programs to pair goods—such as cribs, car seats, and diapers—with life skills training, employment assistance, financial literacy and co-parenting classes. By giving fathers tools, dignity and opportunities to re-engage with their family, GOOD+ is improving outcomes for children. Since increasing its investment in fatherhood, GOOD+ has provided support to more than 25,000 fathers in cities including Baltimore, Houston, New York and Los Angeles. As a result, mothers are getting the support they need, children are getting access to their fathers, and fathers are learning how to become dads.

GOOD+ Foundation has offices and warehouses in New York and Los Angeles and strategically distributes over $6 million worth of goods each year across the country. In 2017, 90 cents of every dollar donated went directly back into GOOD+ programs. The organization has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator—the highest rating possible—as well as accreditation by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance for transparency, efficiency and operations.

For more information, visit www.goodplusfoundation.org.


Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit helpdevin.org.

Alyssa Milano Joins Legal Services Advocates and Vera Institute of Justice to Launch New “SAFE Families Fund” to Support Immigrants Facing Deportation

Press Release – SAN DIEGO, CA – At a press conference held today at San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza, activist and actor Alyssa Milano joined with local leaders from the legal and immigrant advocacy communities to highlight the importance of the growing movement to provide legal services to immigrants facing deportation. The press conference also featured the launch of the new SAFE Families Fund, which will be used to expand programs, such as the Vera Institute of Justice’s Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network, that provide legal services and representation to immigrants facing deportation.

According to Alyssa Milano, “In my fifteen years of advocacy around immigration, I have seen how a mother will do anything she can to keep her family safe, even if it means fleeing the only life she has ever known to face an administration that jeers at her arrival and seeks to detain and rapidly deport her without due process of law. At a time when the most vulnerable are being targeted at our borders and in our towns and communities across the US, we should support efforts to uphold due process and a fair day in court for all. That’s why the SAFE Families Fund is so vital, and that’s why I’m partnering with Vera to ensure access to counsel for immigrants.”

For too long, most immigrants facing the terrifying prospect of deportation from their homes, loved ones, communities, and families, have had no access to legal counsel. That means unaccompanied children, green-card holders who have lived and worked in the United States for decades, or asylum seekers fleeing persecution or torture, can find themselves navigating the complexities of immigration law alone.

The growing movement to provide immigrants with representation, legal information, and a fair day in court aims to change that imbalance and ensure due process for immigrants. When immigrants facing deportation have access to an attorney they are 10 times more likely to win their cases. Ultimately, it’s for a judge to decide what happens to each case in immigration court. But a fair decision cannot be reached when only one side is properly represented.

Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, said, “The dehumanization embedded in the immigration court system is a stain on our American values that has spanned generations and administrations. Too many families are ripped apart every day because they are forced to fight for their lives in court without any help from a lawyer or hope for success. The recent escalation of attacks on immigrants have devastated our communities and enraged an entire nation, but they’ve also brought awareness to this hidden problem and galvanized a movement that seeks to correct our legacy of injustice. We’re grateful to have Alyssa Milano join us in the fight for due process and a fair day in court for all immigrants facing deportation, and we hope her leadership inspires others to bring reform to their own communities.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, Andrew Nietor, Founder of Nietor Law; Monika Langarica, Senior Staff Attorney at the American Bar Association Immigration Justice Project; Erika Pinheiro, Policy and Litigation Director at Al Otro Lado; and Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center offered powerful examples of why the movement for legal services is so important.

Also speaking was Wendy, a survivor, asylum seeker and a high school student who is a client of Immigrant Defenders, who said: “I am here because I am a survivor and a fighter. I am here talking to you because I am lucky. I am lucky that I have a chance. I am lucky that I know that I have legal options to stop my deportation. I am lucky that I have a chance to be protected from the terrible things that happened to me in El Salvador. But I wouldn’t have known about any of these things if I didn’t have a lawyer. I’m proud that I’m a quick learner. I learned a new language in a year. I get A’s in science, math, and English, but there’s no way I could have represented myself in immigration court. There’s no way I could have understood what was happening to me. There is no way I could have fought my case without a lawyer. It’s impossible. But now with my lawyer, I can fight. We fight for my safety and for my life.”

Find more information on the SAFE Families Fund and how to donate at www.vera.org/supportsafe

Share other words of support using the hashtags #SAFEFamiliesFund and #SAFE4Families


Help us share the stories of those who are doing the most good in the world. Get an autographed book from Devin when you pledge just $2 per month. Visit helpdevin.org.

Center For Enriched Living To Celebrate 50 Years Of Providing Life-Changing Opportunities For People With Developmental Disabilities

At Oct. 11th celebration, CEL will pay tribute to its 1968 launch and tremendous growth through the years

Press Release – RIVERWOODS, ILL: There was a time when many Chicago-area children and adults with developmental disabilities lived isolated, lonely lives with limited social and educational opportunities. But that all began to change 50 years ago, when the Center for Enriched Living (CEL) was born in the community of Albany Park. CEL started small, serving two children whose mothers requested they be included in a local social club, but soon grew to offer a weekly social enrichment program incorporating several children with disabilities.

Since then, CEL has greatly expanded its services and reach, and today the organization provides social, recreational and educational enrichment programs seven days a week for more than 400 people a year, from teens to seniors, who come from 50 Chicago-area communities. CEL operates out of its 20,000-square-foot Riverwoods facility, which underwent a state-of-the-art Universal Design renovation in 2016. In 2017, CEL launched a second Hoffman Estates location that offers its REACH Adult Day Program.

CEL will celebrate this tremendous growth and progress at its 50th anniversary event on Thursday, Oct. 11, at Loft 21 in Lincolnshire. The evening will pay tribute to the many ways CEL improves lives today – both for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Tickets are $50 and are available at www.centerforenrichedliving.org.

“We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings on the northwest side,” says CEO Harriet Levy. “We’ve always believed that people with developmental disabilities should be treated as equal, valued and contributing members of the community. That’s why we’ve worked hard to become a leader in expanding the world for as many people as we can possibly serve.”

CEL offers 65 programs all year, including art, technology and fitness classes; summer camp; and social events like dances and even vacations. CEL also runs the REACH Adult Day Program to help members learn and grow after they exit the school system. REACH members work with CEL community partners, volunteering, learning work skills, taking part in college experiences and more. In addition, CEL partners with local businesses to reduce the 85 percent unemployment rate among adults with developmental disabilities. “They have the skills and desire to be employed; they only lack opportunities,” Levy says. “We remove barriers so members can be integral parts of the work community and earn meaningful pay.”

CEL was founded by the Young Men’s Jewish Council in 1968. It became independent in 1984. CEL is privately funded, with programs offered for a fee. Because 84 percent of members are at or below the federal poverty level, CEL offers need-based scholarships, including $95,000 distributed in FY18.

“We’re proud of our reach and high level of service, with low staff-to-member ratios,” says Levy, who has been with CEL for 31 years, including the past 16 as CEO. “This is especially needed in Illinois, which ranks 47th in support of people with developmental disabilities. It’s a misconception that there are many places that combat the social isolation we see. Unfortunately, that’s just not true, especially in our state.”

Levy says CEL will continue to grow to meet needs in the community, and she looks forward to sharing future plans at the Anniversary Celebration, along with paying tribute to the organization’s inspirational journey. The event also will feature performances by talented CEL members, as well as dinner, drinks and dancing.

More About the Center for Enriched Living

In 1968, Lynne Albanese, a social worker at the Deborah Boys Club in Albany Park, was approached by two mothers looking for opportunities for their children with developmental disabilities, who had no opportunities for enrichment. Albanese made sure the children were accepted at the club. Soon, other parents were looking for similar activities for their children. So Albanese and the Young Men’s Jewish Council, which ran the Deborah Boys Club, created a Sunday afternoon social enrichment program for children with developmental disabilities. And the Center for Enriched Living was born. In 1984, CEL became an independent 501(c)3 agency. CEL opened its large state-of-the-art facility in Riverwoods in 2000 and renovated the building with Universal Design in 2016, making it a more welcoming space for people with all levels of developmental disabilities. In 2017, CEL launched its second location in Hoffman Estates. CEL exists so that people with developmental disabilities can be fully included in the community, achieve personal success and enjoy a good quality of life. Today, CEL provides programs seven days a week, including the REACH Adult Day Program, to 430 people annually, with each member attending more than 250 hours of programming on average. CEL also works to remove barriers to employment, so people with developmental disabilities can explore career options with community business partners. CEL is privately funded. For more information and a program guide, visit www.centerforenrichedliving.org.


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