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New Community Life Initiatives!

Search INK, Search's electronic newsletter, recently sat down for a Q&A with Maggie Davidson, Community Life Coordinator, to learn more about the organization's new initiatives in this area. Want to get Search INK delivered right to your inbox? Sign up here!

Q: Could you describe your new position as Community Life Coordinator?
A: My main goal is to get consumers out in the community in more meaningful ways and to help them to explore new sensory activities. My job is focused on growing our Ignite program, creating volunteer opportunities for the people we serve through community partnerships, and developing new immersion programs.

Q: Have you been able to establish any community partnerships for volunteer opportunities?
A: Yes! We have established several new community partnerships and have regular volunteer activities throughout the week. On Mondays, we visit Wagner's Farm. On days that the weather is bad, we stay inside, sweep, wash windows, and clean up activity centers. When the weather is nice we walk outside, do weeding, and give the weeds to chickens. Tuesday is the Watch the Wild class at the pond outside our Kensington Adult Learning location in Mt. Prospect. In Watch the Wild, participants bring chairs, nature books, and a camera to observe the outdoors. They take notes about the weather and the kinds of trees, plants, and animals they see, and then post their observations online at natureabounds.org. This is a great activity because it is very inclusive. On Fridays, we have another Watch the Wild class at Hillside Park.
Recently we volunteered at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg, which was a lot of fun for everyone involved. We are planning to start regular volunteering at a food pantry in June. We are also planning to start regular volunteer trips to Niles Nursing & Rehab.
(PS - to see some great photos of these activities, visit Search's Facebook page!)

Q: In your opinion, what is the importance of providing volunteer opportunities for the people we serve?
A: I think it gives the people we serve more purpose. They have a lot of excitement about doing something different and about helping people in any way they can - whether that is cleaning up at a farm or putting labels on bags at a food pantry. It seems like this is the highlight of their week now. They're always prepared and ready to go. It is a great outlet to explore and help out - I don't know if they had many opportunities to do these types of activities in the past.

Q: Can you explain in our own words what Search's Ignite program is? What are you doing to help Ignite grow?
A: Ignite is a series of afternoon classes that are held "after hours" from when normal day programs end. Each class has a different topic or theme and they all are tied to useful skills for community life. Ignite classes provide great education in a relaxing, fun environment. Classes are small so the content is extremely tailored to individual participants. Instructors focus on responding to everyone's needs and adapt their teaching strategies to fit the audience.
One of the best things about Ignite has been to see the great socialization happening before class. Everyone gathers for a snack and to talk. Some people have been friends for years and some are just getting to know each other. Either way, Ignite gives them a chance to bond and form friendships.
This summer, we will have three Ignite classes - Active Living: Yoga, Life Strategies: Goal Attainment, and Skills for Life: Cooking & the Kitchen. Enrollment in our spring Ignite session was a new record and we hope to continue this growth for the summer session! (See our flyer to find out more about the Ignite summer classes.)

Q: Can you tell me about the new "immersion programs" at Search's adult learning program?
A: The purpose behind the immersion programs is to get more individualized education and personal attention for specific needs. In June we will be starting a fitness class for people who have expressed interest in fitness goals and stress relief. I am also planning to start a Sensory Garden at our Kensington site that will feature lots of interesting smells and textures. We will use lambs ear, mint, basil, parsley, ginger root, rosemary, garlic, sage, and lavender among other plants. There has already been a lot of interest and curiosity about the sensory garden!

Thank you Maggie for all this great information! We're excited to see what happens next.

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