When Kathryn Greene comes into work each day she is guided by a fairly simple philosophy.
For 25 years Greene has led the nonprofit that she created, working to boost the skills of children and adults with disabilities so that they may live more independently. The mission, she said, is to educate and prepare them for life. Straightforward as her approach may be, Greene continues to find ways to expand her reach.
The Light House got its start in 1992 after another organization for which Greene was working saw its programming come to an end. The dearth of services for families and adults with disabilities was — and remains — too much for Greene to ignore, so she created the Light House and, in the early years, focused on after-school programs for children. For six years, Greene worked out of a space provided at a generous discount by the Mystic Congregational Church, until she was able to raise the money to renovate a storefront in the Groton Shopping Plaza. According to Greene, Joyce Resnikoff, co-owner of both Olde Mistick Village and the Plaza, recognized how important it was for these individuals to be visible and integrated into the community and reserved the space for the Light House for a year while fundraising was going on.
Today, The Light House has 64 employees spread over four locations. Greene and her staff serve 110 clients each year ages 7-21, providing everything from state-sanctioned special education to job training and placement. Greene and her director of finance and strategy, Kassidy Brown, said The Light House is also in the early stages of developing a residential site for independent adults.
“In 25 years, we created community-based functional academic and life skill programs that had never existed,” Greene said. “These programs cover every aspect of someone’s life with a disability.”
The Light House still operates out of its original location in Plaza Court in Groton where Greene and her staff offer day-long services for adults. Participants regularly step out into the community to shop for groceries, get a haircut or volunteer at area businesses. Likewise, adaptive skills and recreation are built into the day’s schedule.
Michael Evans, a 27-year-old resident of East Lyme, spends the better part of his week at The Light House in Groton. Diagnosed with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Evans first came to The Light House as a high school freshman.
“It was absolutely the most wonderful experience,” Kerry Evans, Michael’s mother, said. “He just blossomed; he made friends.”
Kerry Evans said that her son struggles to communicate with others even though he understands everything that is said to him. He carries a deck of playing cards with him at all times but, if someone else touches them, he tosses it out for a new one. There was a period of time, too, she said, when Michael would restlessly — and repetitively — stand up from the dinner table.
Thanks to The Light House, Kerry said, her son can now introduce himself to people, eat at restaurants, go swimming and attend various camps. Recently, he stood in front of the congregation during his confirmation.
“The whole staff, they love Michael,” Kerry said of The Light House. “They care for him the way we care for him.”
The Light House also operates its Transition Academy to help adults develop more of the day-to-day skills needed after high school. Eligible clients for this program are, typically, diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Brown, the director of finance and strategy, said the goal for clients coming through this program is to find meaningful employment.
An estimated 95 percent of Transition Academy graduates live independently, drive and hold a steady job.
The curriculum focuses on everything from understanding an apartment lease to the “soft skills” of reading body language in the workplace.
“We don’t want to stick them in there stocking shelves,” said Brown. “They are far more capable than that and we want them to have a job where they can advance.”
For more information on Lighthouse programs, call 860-445-7626, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lhcampus.com.