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Locals with special needs rebound from pandemic

Anthony Risby enjoys the art room in Goodwill Possibilities
Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 07:13:59-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — As we work to rebound from the effects of the pandemic, we’re showing you a special Goodwill program in Colorado Springs, that despite COVID-19, continues to enable adults with developmental disabilities to see all the possibilities their lives can hold.

From the outside, it looks like a typical Goodwill store or warehouse, but on the inside, is an entire simulated town called Possibilities.

It’s a day program for adults with developmental disabilities.

Rachael Sohn has been going there for nearly ten years- since it started.

“I love visiting my friends, and just being able to visit and spend time together,” Sohn said.

Elizabeth Watts interviews Rachael Sohn about Goodwill Possibilities
Elizabeth Watts interviews Rachael Sohn about Goodwill Possibilities

The simulated town has a bank, café, general store, gym, apartment with kitchen, art room, recreational room, spa, and classrooms. It’s aimed at helping individuals learn how to live well-rounded lives in a controlled and safe environment.

“I like to mostly practice my independence,” Sohn said, “like taking myself to the bathroom and getting to class on time.”

Sohn’s guardians say they’ve noticed a huge change and are thankful there’s a place they can trust to take care of Rachael.

“The staff here is just so great, we take our most precious Rachael and turn her over to them, knowing she will be just fine and she will be happy. People (staff) will look at her sideways sometimes and say “Rachellll...” and that’s good too,” guardian Mary Jo Sohn said.

Anthony Risby enjoys it as well. He’s been a part of Possibilities for the past few years and leads a dance exercise every morning. He also likes to learn to cook in the apartment.

“Sometimes I make pasta. I put the pasta in the sauce, and I stir it,” Risby said.

The apartment inside Possibilities has kitchens where clients can learn to cook.
The apartment inside Possibilities has kitchens where clients can learn to cook.

The staff at Possibilities said they have seen their clients thrive in this environment.

“We have seen clients that have been amazing artists, that in our old environment, you wouldn’t have seen those talents. They’re sculpting and they’re doing drawings and they’re selling their artwork,” Director of Community Programs Tamara French said.

Anthony Risby enjoys the art room in Goodwill Possibilities
Anthony Risby enjoys the art room in Goodwill Possibilities

French said their old programs were more workshop-oriented and they weren’t seeing as much progress.

Now their clients are finding their independence and newfound confidence in their everyday lives.

“Rachael (Sohn) for instance. They were saying she came in and didn’t want to talk to anybody, she kind of sat by herself. Through a lot of independence goals, now she greets everybody and as you can tell she’s extremely social, she loves the social environment,” French said.

Tamara French is the Director of Community Programs.
Tamara French is the Director of Community Programs.

The town had to close for a few months in 2020 due to the shutdown but has been open at limited capacity since the summer. They serve about 100 people each day split between the rooms and the hours of the day.

French said they won’t be at full capacity until the COVID dial goes away. The clients are wearing their masks though and learning the importance of good hygiene as well.

The clients said their lives have been changed for the better and despite the pandemic, they’re living their best lives and still smiling along the way.

“It changed my life. Instead of being home all day, I have something to do when I come here. I like the people, the people are really nice,” Risby said, “I made lots of friends.”

Possibilities is the first of its kind program in the entire nation. Other places are trying to model programs after this, some coming from as far as Africa to learn more about what they do. Click here to find out more.

We’re told Possibilities is funded through your donations and by shopping at Goodwill stores, and also third-party funding, mostly Medicaid waivers from the clients.

If you have an idea for a future Rebound Colorado story email rebound@koaa.com.