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Art room project helps adults with intellectual disabilities in Wilkes-Barre

The Citizens' Voice - 5/18/2024

WILKES-BARRE — A community service project that started with creating a new art room for adults with intellectual disabilities grew into something much larger thanks to the generosity of the community.

Staff and clients at St. Joseph’s Center joined the Leadership Northeast “Art With a Heart” project group Thursday for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new art room and renovation project in the adult daycare facility at 300 Laird St.

“Everything that we do to support our mission really is focused on the clients and residents that we get to know through our services, and we continue to try and improve their environment. So, this project makes that possible,” said Sister Maryalice Jacquinot, IHM, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Center.

Art education, according to project literature, is “not only a means of self-expression for the special needs population, but also a powerful tool for empowerment, personal growth, and social inclusion.”

So, Art with a Heart partnered with St. Joseph’s Center to bring art and awareness to their program.

“This project has been a labor of love, and we are excited to see the positive impact it will have on the clients of the St. Joseph’s Center,” said Julissa Molina, a member of the Art with a Heart team.

The service project will transform the adult day service by incorporating art therapy, allowing clients to communicate non-verbally, said Katie Martin, program coordinator at the facility and a member of the project team.

“As a St. Joseph’s employee, we are beyond thankful for everything that Leadership Northeast has done for us. We hit almost $71,000 in donations,” Martin said. “It started with an art room, and the donations kept coming and it just got bigger and bigger. We got enough that we did the sensory room. And then we got more, so then we did the music room. It just expanded so much more than we originally thought it would.”

Martin said the project provided enough funding to paint and put new flooring in the entire facility, provide two locking cabinets in each room to keep the clients safe, and stock every room with brand new supplies — about $5,000 worth of supplies for each theme, including art supplies, sensory supplies, musical instruments for the music room, and new adaptive games and interactive toys.

John Quattrocchi, another team member, said the team is “incredibly thankful to M. Abraham Flooring, Geisinger, Intermetro, and everyone who supported our trivia fundraiser at Huns’ West Side Cafe. Without their generosity and support, this project would not have been possible.”

Joseph Culp, who made an in-kind donation by hosting the trivia night, also attended the ceremony.

Culp, of Ashley, said project team member Zach Watkins is one of his “regulars” at trivia events he regularly hosts on Tuesday nights, and Watkins asked him if there was a way to use his talents to contribute to the project.

“It seemed like such a good cause,” Culp said. “I have a very different skill set than most people and could use that to contribute the best way I could. So, we found a venue and set up for contract to have them donate (the space), and I also helped out with Facebook advertising and social media marketing, just trying to get as much of the word out as possible.”

Watkins, the project team treasurer, said the trivia fundraiser raised over $1,200 alone.

There are approximately 3,200 people with intellectual disabilities in Luzerne County, one-third of which are eligible for the adult day services at St. Joseph’s Center.

The facility is a day setting for the clients who live at home with their families or in the St. Joseph’s Center Community Home. Their day might include some skill development and socialization with peers, activities, and going out into the community, Sister Jacquinot said.

“We kind of have this day setting as a place where they come, they meet friends, they accomplish certain goals,” Jacquinot said. “We take care of them every day with their medical needs, their hygiene needs, but also try to make it a fun setting for them. And with the staff, they’ll go out into the community and have a wonderful, meaningful life.”

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