Greenwich-based Abilis expanding its programs, services in Darien to aid people with special needs

Folks pose together at the opening of the new Cafe at Greenwich Library on Dec. 14, 2020. The cafe is a partnership between the library and Abilis to provide employment for young adults with special needs. Abilis plans to open a similar one in Darien.

Folks pose together at the opening of the new Cafe at Greenwich Library on Dec. 14, 2020. The cafe is a partnership between the library and Abilis to provide employment for young adults with special needs. Abilis plans to open a similar one in Darien.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — New programs aimed at assisting people with special needs are coming to Darien, thanks to Abilis.

The Greenwich-based nonprofit serves more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families from birth throughout their lives in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton and Ridgefield.

Coming this fall are four new Abilis programs and supports that will help provide job training, life skills, employment and housing to those in Darien.

“We are so excited to expand our programs and supports in Darien,”said Amy Montimurro, CEO and president of Abilis,. “We have found that our most successful programs are those that are within the communities we serve, where community members have friends and family close by and program participants are familiar with the streets, shops and residents. Having these four initial Abilis programs, and more to come, in the Darien community, will only strengthen our ability to help more individuals with disabilities or special needs.”

Abilis received $67,000 from The Darien Foundation for the technology and equipment that is needed for the start up of these opportunities.

“We are thrilled to provide a grant to Abilis to support the capital costs of the organization’s expansion into Darien,” said Sarah Woodberry, executive director of The Darien Foundation. “These are successful programs that will bring opportunities to individuals in Darien and enhance our community. It is wonderful to be a part of this collaborative partnership led by Abilis.”

Effective immediately, Abilis will start accepting applications for its Abilis LEAP (Life Skills, Employment, Advocacy and Partnership) Transitions Program, a partnership with the Darien Depot Youth Center. The program helps young adults with special needs develop important independent life skills to become more independent, obtain meaningful jobs and participate in community activities.

“We are very excited to have the Abilis LEAP program available for Darien young adults with special needs,” said Janice Marzano, program director at The Depot Youth Center. “We are providing space and the use of our facility and know this will be a very successful partnership and program for the community.”

The Darien program is taking applications and those interested may apply by contacting Luis Velazquez, Abilis’ senior director of Day Services at 203-531-1880 or Velazquez@abilis.us.

Another joint venture, Project SEARCH Darien is being run in partnership with the Darien YMCA and participants must apply (call 203-531-1880) and be selected for this competitive opportunity.

Project SEARCH is a 10-month internship program that uses an evidenced-based curriculum designed to help individuals with special needs increase their vocational skills and self esteem, with the end result a job in the community upon graduation.

“Having Abilis come on board and bring its successful Project SEARCH internship program to the Darien YMCA is a win-win for both organizations, the individuals in the program, and the community as a whole,” Jennifer Gardner, chief executive officer of the Darien YMCA, said. “We are excited to see the program develop and hopefully expand in the future.”

Opening later this year will be the Darien Library Café, a partnership between the Darien Library and Abilis to manage and staff a café at the library and provide training and work opportunities for community members with special needs.

Abilis will coordinate with local popular eateries to serve their food at the library, including grab-and-go breakfast items, bagels, coffee, tea. sandwiches, salads, wraps, snacks, drinks and more.

“We are really looking forward to having Abilis be part of the Darien Library,” said Kiera Parrott, director of the Darien Library. “We’re especially excited about the delicious, locally-sourced food and amazing coffee the new Abilis-run café will offer our patrons.

“The inclusiveness of the café and Abilis’ mission is also very important to us, and we are excited to be able to provide meaningful employment to adults with special needs and involve them in the fabric of the library and our community,” Parrott added.

Finally, later this summer and early this fall, 12 new large studio apartments in two Darien homes with close proximity to Interstate 95, located in a residential area, will be made available as part of Abilis’ Darien REACH (Residential, Education & Employment, Activities, Community, Health) Supported Living Program, for individuals 18 and older with special needs. The Abilis Darien Apartments on East Lane are a partnership with Baywater Properties to provide affordable housing that allow people with disabilities to live in their own apartment with supports from Abilis.

“As a company, we are deeply committed to providing accessible, affordable and inclusive housing in Darien,” said David Genovese, founder of Baywater Properties. “Partnering with Abilis struck a chord with us on so many levels, and we are excited to provide these beautiful apartments to adults with different abilities as a part of our redevelopment project in downtown, The Corbin District. We know that having individuals supported by Abilis actively as part of our community, as residents and working in local jobs, will help bring so much joy and pride into their lives.”

Abilis is accepting applications for its Darien location now, so the REACH team can introduce community members and develop friendships.

Abilis anticipates strong demand for the 12 apartments and encourages interested families to contact Jennifer O’Gorman, director of Admissions and Clinical Services at Abilis, at OGorman@abilis.us or 203-531-1880 x. 132.

To learn more about Abilis’ programs and services in Darien, call 203-531-1880 or email info@abilis.us. For more information, visit www.abilis.us, or facebook.com/Abilisinc, twitter.com/Abilis, or instagram.com/abilis_us.