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New Avenues to Independence celebrates sixty years

On Thursday, more than 300 supporters arrived for a celebration at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. New Avenues to Independence provides a home environment and work opportunities for people with disabilities. The organization celebrated its sixty years of service in our area with a 1950s-themed party at the museum.

Although the name has changed through the years, the mission of the organization has not. Back in the 1950s, when it was known as Parent Volunteer Organization, the founders knew that an institution was not the place for people who had Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or certain brain injuries. The conditions were not known by those names then – and those with the disabilities were often thought to be completely limited, and that an institution was the only alternative for them.

Today, New Avenues to Independence has two homes in Lakewood, one at each end of the city, where men and women live with companionship and guidance. Westlake also has two homes.  Many of the residents work for Buckeye Industries, which provides styrofoam and cardboard recycling and paper shredding services. To celebrate these successes, the organization sponsored “Still Rockin’ & Rollin’ After Sixty Years.”

Close to 300 supporters gathered at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During the social hour, a soda fountain made milkshakes in all the popular flavors. Dinner, in the tradition of Executive Caterers, was gourmet hot dogs and hamburgers. Huge genuine onion rings and do-it-yourself potato skins with all the toppings were also a hit. For dessert, most guests tried a variety of the small samplings. How else would you know what to return to for “seconds”? Through the night, guests could view the exhibits in an uncrowded atmosphere. Like many others, I found my way to the top floor special exhibit halls, where the amazing Grateful Dead exhibit was indeed a “long, strange trip.”

What made this celebration so festive and unique was that most of the residents attended as honored guests. After a program, live rock music was provided by FLAME. The members of this New York-based group all have disabilities, but play first-rate rock-and-roll. Within a minute the dance area was filled with residents, staff and supporters. The dancing continued until the party came to a close.

Sally and Don Koster of Westlake (Photos by Art Thomas)

Jane, Tom, Keegan, Caitlin and T.J. Lewins of Rocky River

Bethanie and Brian Murray of Rocky River

David and Carol Ball of Bay Village

 

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