Mission and brief description of our organization:
Zack’s Place is a 501(c) (3) free community enrichment center for people of all ages with special needs where they can explore various art forms, continue their education, learn business skills, and enjoy fitness activities, while developing bonds of friendship among each other and members of the community. We engage participants with hands on programming with instructors in specific areas, and with volunteers in others. Through these programs our participants become embedded in the community sharing their talents and abilities while forging new relationships and friendships with people who might never be touched by or know this special needs group of people and what they have to offer. Our programming offers employment, business, social and life skills training; art; crafts; theater; music; yoga; fitness; reading and writing; science; nutrition; cooking; adaptive sports including skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, and horseback riding; and two Special Olympic Teams featuring snowshoeing and skiing. Field trips are also an important part of our weekly calendar. These programs are vitally important to our participants who chose which programs appeal to them, and who enthusiastically wait each day for our doors to open for social enjoyment as well as creative opportunities. Our center also offers respite to parents and caregivers who are able to go to work knowing their loved ones are happy, safe, and fulfilled or, free to enjoy a social life outside the realm of the special needs world.
Where We Live:
We are centrally located in the Village of Woodstock within easy walking distance of the public library, the Town Green, the elementary school, a public athletic field, playgrounds, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, the Dana House Museum, the Woodstock Recreation Center, Town Hall Theater, and Billings Farm. We utilize all of these facilities in any given month. Our center includes an art studio and a large comfortable room which serves as a multipurpose room. In May 2014 we successfully completed a six month capital campaign to raise $442,000 to buy the building, all with private donations and grants. We have since also painted the exterior and have added a second rest room. We have also renovated the second floor allowing us to rent it for added income.
Whom We Serve:
Participants vary in age from 14 to 55, with special needs resulting from physical, cognitive, and developmental challenges such as cerebral palsy, Autism, and Down syndrome. Less than half of our constituents live in Woodstock while others routinely travel from distances of up to 40 miles. ZP serves the special education community in a unique way, offering programming that complements the public school system by augmenting and reinforcing the educational and social bonds offered through those programs. A recent program combined a summer elementary school student special education program with participants and activities taking place at our enrichment center. The students visited ZP weekly, joining us for special art and cooking projects. Each spring, the Woodstock Union High School student council organizes an inclusive prom for ZP with decorations, refreshments, and a DJ, where we join with high school students, family members, teachers, and volunteers to dress up and dance in the gym. Thus, ZP also serves as a learning center for mainstream students, administrators, teachers and community members who join us as instructors or volunteers, or as partners in special events. Again, these are people who might never know or be touched by the abilities and talents of our ZP population.
Sixty individuals with special needs participate in our programs in a given week and they come from the Central Vermont and New Hampshire Upper Valley areas. Our center benefits not only participants, but their family members and caregivers as we offer respite for those who might otherwise be unable to lead their own productive lives due to the constraints of caregiving needs. They can earn a living, maintain their homes, and socialize outside the realm of the special needs population. In addition, community members have become an integral part of ZP by acting as volunteers or partnering in our inclusive programs. Our fundraisers brings ZP front and center into the community through our Dine Around Themed Dinners, and the Turkey Trot (the 5K race held on Thanksgiving morning that brings out over 1,400 people who run or walk). Indeed, over 1,800 people participate in our fundraisers each year.