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Local

Joshua Tree Community finds new home at Cougar stadium during COVID-19

Nonprofit serving intellectually disabled adults: 'We could not have lucked out better'

Hayes Morris paints a photo in a rooftop suite area of Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva with the Joshua Tree Community, which enriches lives of adults with disabilities.
Hayes Morris paints a photo in a rooftop suite area of Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva with the Joshua Tree Community, which enriches lives of adults with disabilities.

GENEVA – As difficult as the coronavirus pandemic shutdown was for adults and children, it was especially difficult for the intellectually disabled adults served by The Joshua Tree Community.

St. Charles resident Kathy Raymond’s son Sam participated in the nonprofit’s daily activities – which included field trips, recreation and volunteering – and then it all stopped.

“Everything hit the sand so quickly,” Raymond said. “On Thursday, they’re there and the next day, everybody went home. And nobody knew how long it would last. It was a lot to comprehend for us adults – and you get this (special needs) population and it was confusing and difficult.”

But now, the 15 clients of The Joshua Tree Community meet every day at the Kane County Cougars stadium, on a rooftop under a tent. They meet in two shifts of two and a half hours each day.

“Everybody masks up and are separated,” Raymond said. “It’s less than they’re used to, but after months and months of not seeing their friends except for Zoom meetings … this couldn’t be better.”

Singer said the area they use is huge, big enough to have 10 tables for social distancing and washrooms nearby.

“It’s perfect,” Singer said.

Singer, who founded the Geneva-based Joshua Tree Community six years ago, said they closed their program March 13.

“All their stuff was canceled,” Singer said. “Most of them have jobs that they had not been called back to yet, for a variety of reasons. Some of the businesses had closed.”

The adults in her day program could not go back to meeting in their space at St. Mark’s in Geneva in July because it didn’t have air conditioning.

“I got crushed,” Singer said. “It hit me like a brick. I knew our parents were really hurting. Their kids were not socializing and they were really worried about their kids.”

Singer kept things going remotely with as much online programming as possible.

But it was not the same. Her clients missed their friends, the socialization and being out and about in the community.

Then she read an article in the Kane County Chronicle about the Kane County Cougars’ season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A friend at Geneva Community Chest urged her to get in touch with the Cougars management and ask about renting space there.

Then she received another push to contact the Cougars.

“Joshua Tree was named after my brother Josh who passed away at 47,” Singer said. “I felt him nudging me along to go for it.”

She sent an email and heard back right away.

“They were very, very considerate,” Singer said.

So on Aug. 3, her clients started coming to the rooftop where she runs a structured classroom for them.

“We work on skills, reading comprehension every day, spelling, fun shapes,” Singer said. “That is all we can do right now. … They are lifelong learners. They love to learn. … This is very important that they have this. … They can go on the walking track around field. It’s beautiful. We could not have lucked out better.”

Singer also continues to provide online resources for them daily.

Their yoga teacher comes back twice a month.

And their art teacher, Linda Palmer has returned for once-a-month art class.

“I’m very happy to be able to do it again,” Palmer, a Sugar Grove resident, said. “I missed it during the shutdown. It’s a wonderful program and I’m very honored to be part of it. I am so glad Amy was able to find a venue that was safe and she was able to afford.”

Singer’s program will continue through the fall and winter as her clients will move to a large inside suite Oct. 1.

The Joshua Tree Community is one of the nonprofits to be featured Sept. 24 through the Geneva Chamber of Commerce Challenge, an effort to help them with fundraising during the pandemic.

The public is invited to visit the chamber website at www.genevachamberchallenge.org on Sept. 24 where registered nonprofits will be listed – along with their mission statements and who they support – and can make donations.

More information about The Joshua Tree Community is available by visiting

www.joshuatreecommunity.com. An informational video is available on Face Book.

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