Personal donation leads to interpersonal connections
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (April 16, 2018) – At a March 28 meeting in the LARC conference room, Mayor Patty Eidam shared a story about the LARC crew that picks up litter around the Lansing Municipal Center. Whenever she sees them, she gets up from her desk, goes to the window, and waves. “They all stop what they’re doing and wave back to me,” she said, and this interaction has become a tradition. But on this particular morning, the Mayor was on the phone when the LARC crew arrived. When she hung up and turned around, there they were, outside her window, waiting for her to wave. “It was adorable!” she said, laughing at the memory.
Those kinds of interactions are exactly what LARC CEO Ernie Gonzalez is hoping to create more of. He wants LARC clients to be visible throughout the community, contributing in whatever ways they can, and enjoying the small personal exchanges that many of us take for granted.
This kind of thinking is a change in paradigm that Gonzalez is bringing to LARC. “We have very good staff who are very caring and very protective of these individuals,” he said. But he is encouraging staff to care in a different way—to help clients set goals and develop skills that may take more of them outside the building more often.
The result, he hopes, will be a richer life for LARC clients and a richer community for us all.
Meeting each other
Mayor Eidam was already familiar with LARC—since 1956 the Lansing organization has been serving people with developmental disabilities. Their annual fish fry, golf outing, and Appreciation Dinner are well attended and successful in raising both funds and awareness. When the Mayor called to donate a silent auction item for this year’s Appreciation Dinner, Public Relations Director Ken Sadowski invited her to come in for a tour. She accepted the invitation and arrived on a Wednesday afternoon to meet staff and clients and to learn more of what LARC is all about.
Gonzalez led the tour, but at each stop, it was clients who filled in the details—sometimes about work, sometimes about life in general. Margarita Pericolosi demonstrated the process she goes through to assemble specialty shipping boxes for BMW. Ira Burton discussed the skills needed to be a good worker. Jill VanderSteeg showed off a baby bib she’s been cross-stitching. Eddie Schneider played April Fool’s jokes. And Cheryl Perozzi made small talk about her plans for the evening.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed it every time I’ve come here, for different occasions,” Mayor Eidam told Gonzalez at the end of the tour. “But there is a lot I didn’t know about LARC. Thank you very much for inviting me!”
LARC Appreciation Dinner
The Mayor plans to attend LARC’s Annual Appreciation Dinner on May 4, and many LARC clients attend as well, so there is a good chance they will get to reconnect again there.
This year the dinner will be held on May 4 at Lansing’s Serbian Social Center, 18550 Stony Island Avenue. The event is a fundraiser supporting LARC programs. Tickets are $55 per person and must be purchased in advance. Call 708-474-1540 to reserve tickets, make a donation, or sponsor a client to attend the dinner.