Sarah Jerue loves to be out and about, especially helping others.
The 25-year-old woman with autism spends her days at the Monarch Academy. The community program, housed in Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Naperville, serves post-high school young adults with disabilities.
There Jerue participates in a variety of activities. One day she might create labels for the city’s public works department or another day shred papers at the police station. For the holidays, she might assemble treat bags for needy families. Sometimes she and the others might collect magazines and sort them to go to senior centers or for recycling.
“The young adults enjoy an active day where they are going to be social with their peers,” said Kristin Garcia, the program coordinator for Monarch Services, part of the Ray Graham Association.
But they also spend time working on life skills and vocational skills. While their days start and end at the church, they are often in the community doing activities rather than on the church campus.
Few programs like this one cater to young adults with developmental disabilities once they leave the public education system.
“Monarch is unique because it’s not purely a recreational program,” Garcia said. “This program is intended to be on the smaller end, to have that intimate feel and also have in mind the young adult in a transitional age.”
Sarah’s mother, Laurie, was familiar with the Ray Graham Association before they moved to Naperville from Hinsdale 15 years ago. They used respite services over the years, but Sarah needed intensive services that weren’t available locally after she graduated from high school.
“What I like about Ray Graham is they are always willing to partner with families who are willing to step up volunteering, time, energy and resources to make these support services the best they can be,” Jerue said.
Donations to Monarch Academy go to buy supplies for materials needed for arts and crafts projects, for any recreation fees like attending musicals and plays, and for anything they might need curriculum related.
Ray Graham also offers 20 Community Integrated Living Arrangements in the Chicago area with two in Naperville.
These are houses where five to six women with developmental disabilities live. The women are supported by a staff who oversee their daily lives, help with transportation needs, and support them in goals they want to achieve.
“What their focus is our focus,” said Kelly Scafuri, the administrator for the CILA houses for Ray Graham.
For some of the women, the goal could be to do volunteer work, and for others, it’s keeping in contact with their families. They are encouraged to build relationships with not just their families but with their peers and community members as well. Each woman is different and the staff works with her to help her accomplish what is most important.
While the CILAs are funded by the state, the money only includes the basics. They do not receive funding for anything fun the women might want to do or updates to the home. Nor do they receive money for daily living items such as pots and pans, kitchen and bedding. The women are given an opportunity to express what they would like to see in the house and then funds are sought to make their requests happen.
Laurie Jerue is happy her daughter can continue to receive services in Naperville, her daughter’s hometown.
“She is always seeing people,” Laurie said. “She is probably known by more people in the city of Naperville than I am.”