Director Greg Fenton of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, visited Pioneer Center last week. There he spent several hours talking to staff and attending a town hall meeting with clients. During his discussions with staff, he noted their obvious passion for the work they do and the quality of care they provide for the clients.
During the town hall meeting, Director Fenton listened to client’s questions and concerns about their programs and learned about their goals to live a more independent life. Pioneer Center’s Advocates in Motion client advocacy group also did a short presentation on the activities of the agency’s intellectual and developmental disability programs.
During the presentation, clients voiced their concerns about their ability to find and secure jobs in the community with most individuals voicing strong desire to work at local business, earn a paycheck and be a part of the community. Clients also shared with Director Fenton their volunteer projects including regular opportunities at local libraries, senior programs and with Habitat for Humanity. One client highlighted her desire to live in a more independent setting than where she currently lives.
Also discussed was the change in day-to-day activities for many individuals in the program that used to participate in Pioneer Industries, a sheltered workshop model of employment. Pioneer Industries closed its operations at the end of 2015 in keeping with the mandate to move employment options for individuals with developmental disabilities from sheltered workshops to community-based jobs. In its place, the agency added daily activities including life skills training, computer classes, Special Olympics sports teams and physical fitness training opportunities.
Pictured are Director Greg Fenton alongside Sam Tenuto, Pioneer Center’s Interim President and CEO.