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Security Health Plan: Invests in Wausau social activity center for adults with special needs

CONTACT:  Rebecca Normington, 715-221-9726, normington.rebecca@securityhealth.org


MARSHFIELD – While working in the Special Education Department at the Wausau School District, Katie Normand and Anissa Walters were frequently faced with a common question: What happens with the students they educate after they’ve completed high school?


The question, “What is next?” lingered with Normand, realizing there is a gap after high school for individuals with special needs. That is when she decided to take action and create a community in the Wausau area for the adult special needs population. In January of this year Normand and Walters opened Adaptive Communities, Inc., a non-profit social activity center for adults with special needs.


“Why can’t they have a place where they feel like they’re a part of something? A place where they can go and be their own person, make friends, be a part of the community,” Normand, the center’s director, said.


Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc., will invest $1,000 in Adaptive Communities as part of its Employee-Driven Corporate Giving grant program. Each month Security Health Plan awards a different charity or organization that is nominated by a Marshfield Clinic Health System employee, a $1,000 grant. Employees are encouraged to nominate organizations making a positive difference in the community.


Marshfield Clinic Health System Senior Financial Assistant Patti Timken and Hemodynamic Technologist Mary Morris nominated Adaptive Communities, Inc., for the grant.


“This center is dependent on grants and donations,” Timken said “the grant will help support a place that provides a community of individuals, a place for socialization. It is a place for adults with special needs to go for a fun and inviting experience.”


Center co-director Walters said receiving grants, like this one from Security Health Plan, helps provide the members at Adaptive Communities the ability to learn life skills, but it brings so much more to their lives.


“For many of the center’s members something is missing in their life. Some are living alone, some live with strangers, they don’t have that sense of community,” Walters said. “Now that they’re a part of Adaptive Communities they are starting to gain that, they’re making friends, gaining positive attitudes, learning life skills. They are getting a sense of community, a place to go where they feel they belong.”


Normand said they hold their members accountable and treat them as adults. She said they teach their members how to cook and clean up after themselves, prepare them for job interviews and how to interact socially.


“We teach them life skills and help them learn what is acceptable and appropriate,” she said.


“When they’re out looking for a job, they are competing with people who do not have a disability,” Walters explained. “We want to help them achieve and provide them the support they need.”


Today the center serves 47 members, with about 20 individuals each day. There are three employees and they accept any volunteers willing to help out.


“If you have a hobby, we will probably love it,” she said, urging people to visit the center to share their hobby or vocation. “We had a community member bring in goats and talk about them; we’ve had art classes and cooking classes. We urge community members to come in and spend some time with us.”


Center co-director Walters said volunteers are welcome to call, email or stop in at the center Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., but cautioned that they may be out in the community for one of their outings, so it may be best to schedule a time to meet.


One of those recent outings was to the circus in Wausau. Normand said she noticed one of the members crying and she learned he was crying because he had never though he would see an elephant in real life.


Another outing that strongly impacted the members was the day they attended the VIP Prom in Wausau, Normand said. The center rented a limo, they did hair and makeup and everyone went out in their finest attire.


“There were so many tears of happiness because they never thought they’d get to experience prom,” Normand said. “Those are memories they are going to cherish forever.”


The center hosts a monthly event for members and their families and friends to get together. They do a variety of activities like game night, Woodchucks outings and even a talent show.


Timken and Morris regularly attend the various functions the center hosts. The highlight from the past year, Timken said, was the talent show.


“I was in awe of the talent so many of them had. It was really neat to watch them be so excited to participate,” Timken said.


Morris added, “One participant played the violin and I have never heard that kind of music, it was beautiful. It was amazing to see her shine.”


Walters and Normand said the organization is happy to accept volunteers and is always in need of donations, like cleaning supplies, food and grocery store gift cards. Normand said the grant funds from Security Health Plan will be used to purchase groceries for the daily lunch they cook and serve, help offset the membership costs and will help cover transportation costs for their members to get to the center.


To get involved, make a donation or learn more about Adaptive Communities, Inc., visit their website at https://www.adaptivecommunitiesinc.org/ or check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/adaptivecommunities/.


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