WTC was initially developed to meet the needs of our current members: to reduce the negative effects of isolation and boredom. Its primary goal was to create ways to keep the bonds of our community strong through social and educational engagement. The WAE Center was the recipient of an emergency grant from The Healthcare Foundation of NJ during the spring of 2020, allowing us to develop the WTC remote learning program.
In October 2020 The Healthcare Foundation of NJ, once again, responded with a yearlong grant for the WAE to Connect program to implement plans for growth. The goal: to provide stability, variety, and access to existing WAE Center members and residents of JSDD homes while conducting outreach and inviting new participants to experience WAE remote learning and join the community.
Current programming includes group classes in arts, movement, music, travel, history, current events and civics, offered in over 20 classes conducted Monday through Friday. Additionally, a series of “after hours” class offerings is currently in development and are scheduled to begin in February 2021.
In November, fine art 1:1 classes began and enrollment has been growing consistently. This program is supported by the Gertrude L. Hirsch Charitable Trust and has provided an important resource and outlet for members to continue to develop their art practice.
A generous grant from Price Waterhouse Cooper has allowed for the expansion of the Digital Art Program. Beginning in fall 2020 research was conducted in best practices and resources towards building an inclusive and cutting-edge curriculum. The need to provide virtual learning opportunities, as well as planning for the return to “in-person” learning is being addressed.
Therapies are an essential part of our mission to keep the health and wellness of members, residents, and new participants at the forefront of our programming through the duration of quarantine and beyond. They will continue to be a necessity as we consider those are isolated due to health considerations, transportation, distance, family circumstances, etc.
Physical therapy, in person and virtual, has been available since summer 2020 and Occupational Therapy will be available beginning in January, as well. Plans are in the works for speech therapy to resume by spring 2021.
LGBTQ+ WAE virtual meetings
The LGBTQ+ WAE regular meetings will resume on January 21, 2021. This unique group has been led by Oscar Marin for two years but took a hiatus due to Covid-19.
The group was developed to bring together those who self-identify as LGBTQ+ and are part of the IDD or ASD communities. Members gather for social engagement, educational growth, and the development of self-advocacy skills. Allies, family, and caregivers are also encouraged to seek out available resources in order to better understand and support their loved ones in daily quality of life through self-expression.
Dedicated, professional staff support
The professional staff engaged in developing and implementing this multi-faceted program includes 8 program staffers, 7 contractors, 5 facilitators, and 3 program assistants. Fifty-eight participants are supplied with art materials, technological support, and many opportunities for learning and connecting with one another. WAE facilitators have learned to work directly with members, families, caregivers and residential staff to continuously find solutions to what has been a very steep learning curve for everyone involved.