Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Swagger Gifts officially announces our Holiday Open House Charity - Life Experiences!

We are so excited to announce that we will be partnering with Life Experiences for our Holiday Open House Preview Night on November 5th from 6 - 9 PM! For more information about the event please go to our website!

This year twelve very deserving charities were nominated for our Holiday Open House Preview Night - each with an amazing story of service to the community! But when I spoke with Mary Madenspacher, Executiver Director of Life Experiences, I knew this was the charity we would partner with for 2009! The passion of the team at Life Experiences to enrich the lives of adults with developmental disabilities is contagious! At Swagger, we have many parents who have children with developmental disabilities, and it is wonderful to know that an organization like Life Experiences will be available to them, to help enrich their lives when they get older!

Below is an article that Mary Madenspacher sent to me to help me understand a little more about Life Experiences. Please take the time to read it! It really put a smile on my face!

What Life Experiences Is All About

Hi Everybody, I’m Here!

This is the morning greeting from Angie Grenz, one of 41 employees at Life Experiences. Angie is a 32 year old woman with Down syndrome who moved to Cary about 3 years ago to live with her sister and brother–in-law, Deanna and Albert L’Homme. Angie works in the bakery, one of 4 small businesses run by this non-profit located in Cary. The other businesses are a commercial laundry, sub-contract department and janitorial service. Each business provides valuable services and products for the community, all completed by adults with developmental disabilities and cognitive challenges.

Angie’s story is very heart warming. According to Deanna, “Angie came to us when she was 6 days old in May of 1977. My mother, a widow with three children of her own, decided to open a foster home for children with special needs in her Tampa, Florida home. Angie was only supposed to stay for a week, until the state could place her. Her birth parents could not cope with a child with Down syndrome. That week turned into 3 years. By that time she was the ‘little sister.’ My mother adopted her when she was a little over three years old. She was officially part of the family.

“Last year my husband and I were empty nesters,” continued Deanna, “after our fourth child moved away to college. Shortly after his departure, Angie and my mother came to live with us due to my mother’s health. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease and could no longer care for herself or for Angie.”

Once Angie arrived, Deanna started looking for a place for Angie to work. She learned about Life Experiences from Angie’s caseworker and from Dr. Michael Anthony. Both people recommended the agency for its outstanding work with adults with developmental disabilities.

Deanna recalls their first visit to Life Experiences, “I didn’t know what to expect, but the place was great. It was full of busy, happy people doing their jobs. They were smiling, talking, and getting and giving instructions. Everyone was busy and everyone had a job to do. Angie and I got to visit every department and talk with some of the employees. With every stop Angie’s smiles only got bigger!”

Angie adores Emeril Lagasse, so working in the bakery is right up her alley. She wraps brownies for area restaurants, washes dishes, helps make cookies, packs box lunches and pours barbeque sauce into take out cups for Danny’s Bar-B-Que. If you ask Angie what her job is, she will respond with a wide grin, “brownie wrapper chef!”

“Life Experiences is a wonderful organization that should be available to all the people that could benefit from it,” summarizes Deanna. “For us it has meant we are able to let Angie be her own person. To think and do things for herself. Sometimes we think people with disabilities cannot do things for themselves. What they need is a chance to prove they can and Life Experiences is just the place to do it.”

Angie’s story is just one of many at Life Experiences. For over 31 years, Life Experiences has provided a place for adults with disabilities who strive to become independent and productive citizens, working for pay. The program began as a small bakery with four employees and two staff members and today operates four businesses employing over 40 adults with developmental disabilities and 7 staff members. Seven years ago, Life Experiences opened a new facility in Cary to offer its employees (clients) the best in vocational opportunities and work environments.

Maybe Life Experiences can help you or someone you know. If you are interested in getting more information about Life Experiences, contact Mary Madenspacher at 467-1973 or Mary@LifeExperiences.org.

We are looking forward to a fun night on November 5th and hope you all will join us!