BY KATIE MATTESON
Based in the old Hansche School on Sheridan Road, the Racine County Opportunity Center has been meeting the special needs of the community since 1957.
The nonprofit organization focuses its services and programming on young children and adults with special needs to “help all individuals maximize their potential and lead a life of fuller participation in family and the community.”
Under its mission statement of “creating opportunity for life’s potential through learning and living,” the agency administers three distinct programs with the common goals of meeting the community’s special needs through:
- Respect: Treat every person with respect
- Power: Empower every person to lead a quality life
- Challenge: Create real-world opportunities for individuals to reach their highest potential
- Commitment: Support and assist individuals so they may have pride, joy and fulfillment as contributing members of society
Child Development Unit
The Racine County Human Services Department contracts with the Opportunity Center to provide services for children from birth to three years old. The agency served approximately 700 children in 2017.
The staff of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and feeding therapists, exceptional education early childhood teacher, and service coordinators provide services to those diagnosed with a 25 percent delay in some area of development or who have a specific diagnosed condition such as down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism or a chromosomal defect. In addition, staff coach/empower parents and guardians to carry out strategies within the daily routine to help the children reach their full potential and enhance the family connection.
Sheryl Hamilton, a speech/feeding therapist has supervised this program since 2000 and has served as Executive Director of the agency since 2014.
“Our goal is to assist the parents/caregivers to feel confident/comfortable to engage with their child with special needs in everyday activities, “Hamilton said.
“If you think your child has delays with his/her development, you can contact Single Point of Referral at 262-638-7720, to begin the referral process,” Hamilton added. “It is so important for the child/family to get the help at an early age.”
The Nesting Place Daycare
This four-star (as rated by the state’s YoungStar Quality Rating system) non-profit childcare center accepts newborns and children up to age 14 and specializes in serving children with special needs.
The Nestling Place Director Michelle Beegle explained that the program is inclusive, meaning that she and her staff strive to meet all children, with or without special needs, at their individual levels in their classroom environments and day-to-day routines.
“All children learn and play together,” she said.
Children with special needs may receive social-emotional, speech, physical and occupational therapy based on their needs, embedded into the classroom environment.
The Community Placement Program
Jamie Dieter serves as a Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Manager of Vocational Services for the program which provides services to prepare individuals with disabilities to enter the workforce.
Currently 55-60 program participants, referred to as consumers, are helped through a variety of means.
- Supported Employment/ Community-Based Employment and Training: The Community Placement Program: Volunteering provides consumers with valuable skills, networking opportunities and a way to prove themselves to potential employers.
- Employment Readiness Trainings: Courses offered by the program include Employer Expectation, Soft Skills, Employment Safety, Interviewing Skills, Employment Hygiene and Career Exploration.
- Job Development and Placement: Consumers are referred for placement services and provided by an employment specialist for assistance in obtaining and retaining competitive employment. The agency holds contracts with private businesses to provide food and janitorial services. Additional readiness may include: employment readiness assessments, supported employment services, job preparation and development, resume building services and mock interviewing.
In addition to agency fees, private pay for daycare services, contracts with Human Services Department and Community Placement for services and grants from places like the Racine Community Foundation (which recently funded a new handicapped accessible playground), the organization holds annual fundraisers and will embark on a new capital campaign next year to fund a new playground for older children.
The 26th Annual Golf for Kids fundraiser will take place Friday, Aug. 3 at Maplecrest Country Club. Participants will enjoy lunch, raffle and silent auction, and banquet dinner, in addition to a fun day of golf. For registration and silent auction donations, please contact Sheryl Hamilton, Sheryl.email@example.com.
New this year, a 5K run/walk called Run Now, Wine Later is set to take place on Saturday, June 2 in Downtown Racine. Participants will enjoy wine after the race at D.P. Wigley, home of Hop To It! Brewery and Wine supplies. Sponsorships are available. Please contact Michelle Beegle at 262-554-6738.
“RCOC is looking for area businesses to partner with our program to achieve our mission.” Hamilton said.
Other opportunities to help the organization include volunteers to sit with babies in the nursery and assist with repairs like leaky faucets in the aging building. There’s also a wish list for needed supplies on the organization’s website, rcoc.net.
For more information, call (262) 554-5006.
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