Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz welcomes Park Lawn to the community. (Photos by Kelly White)

Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz welcomes Park Lawn to the community. (Photos by Kelly White)

Park Lawn opens day program in Palos Heights

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Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz welcomes Park Lawn to the Palos Heights community.

By Kelly White

Promoting inclusion and individuality, Park Lawn provides services that promote choice and access to community living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The mission behind the organization focuses on encouraging people with disabilities to discover their passion, to take pride in their accomplishments, to live more independently and to continue to thrive.

Park Lawn recently opened its doors to its newly renovated day program location, the Palos Heights Discover Program, 6530 W. College Drive.

“As someone who has serves as board Chairman of a similar organization; it is extremely important that we continue to offer the best and most convenient of programs to the developmentally disabled community,” Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz said.

A ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony was held at Discover Palos Heights on Thursday, May 9, and Straz was very happy to welcome them to the Palos Heights community.

“This is a great location, walking distance from Lake Katherine, parks, Starbucks and so much more,” Straz said.

Frank Portada, Executive Director of Park Lawn, agreed.

“Palos Heights is a wonderful fit and mixes well within the scope of the locations we already own,” Portada said. “Further, Park Lawn has the long-standing support of the city of Palos Heights and its’ residents through ongoing collaboration with key stakeholders such as the Palos Heights Public Library and Lake Katherine Nature Center. As our building is within walking distance of Lake Katherine, it is a jumping off point for all of our participants to enjoy the beauty of nature right in our backyard.”

Park Lawn provides an array of Community Day and Residential services in numerous communities in the south suburbs of Chicago, including Oak Lawn, Worth, Chicago Ridge, Alsip, Crestwood, Orland Park and Tinley Park.

The Palos Heights Discover Program will provide adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities opportunities to explore their personal interests, increase self and community awareness and enhance peer and community relationships.

The program includes both in-house skill-building, as well aa community participation through exploration, volunteerism and employment.  Participants choose activities that spark their interests and imagination.

“This program location is also dedicated to advocating for and supporting Park Lawn’s aging participants within our Grace Program,” Portada said. “Discover Palos Heights provides activities to support quality of life as our participants experience physical and cognitive changes as they age.”

Discover Palos Heights, also known as Park Lawn’s Community Day Services location, was licensed by the State of Illinois on September 18, 2023 and officially opened up its programming on October 31, 2023.

After closing on the property in December 2022, renovations began in early January 2023 and were completed in late July, 2023.

“Park Lawn, like many similar organizations was faced with a dilemma,” Portada said. “In 2022, we were supporting a large 52,000 square foot vocational center which provided an organizational employment program, also known as a Sheltered Workshop, for over 100 participants.”

Portada explained as national and state regulations were shifting to smaller community-based options, Park Lawn had to make the decision to pivot and find new locations for its day program participants.

“After selling our large property in Oak Lawn, we set about to find three new locations,” he said. “The Palos Heights property ticked all the boxes for us. It is close to our residents and other program locations. It is a beautifully maintained building with great bones that required a curated renovation to support our unique participant needs. Lake Katherine is our neighbor; there are fantastic businesses close by for our participants to visit, explore and enjoy and we have been welcomed into the community.”

Program participants are also looking forward to meeting members of the community by participating in the Palos Heights Farmers Market three times this year.

“We are always looking for volunteers and for businesses who can offer employment opportunities,” Maureen Reilly, Board Chairman of Park Lawn, said.

Discover Palos Heights is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There is not housing available at Discover Palos Heights; however, there is housing at other Park Lawn locations.

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