I originally wrote this article a couple of years ago when Possibilities first opened. It’s such a great program, I wanted to share it again for all our new readers.
In May, Discover Goodwill of Southern & Western Colorado launched a first-of-its-kind life skills program for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities called Possibilities, and it’s not just the first-of-its-kind program in Colorado, we’re talking about it’s the first kind of program like this in the entire United States. And let me tell you, it is AWESOME! My husband and I had the privilege of taking a tour of the “town” the other day with Keri Funkhouser, Communications Specialist and Jaimy Criswell, Rehabilitation Liasion, and I think I said, “This is great”, “This is fabulous”, This is so great”, at least a hundred times as we walked around.
Possibilities is a 14,000 square foot space that is designed to resemble a town square, complete with a bank, art studio, general store, apartment, community center and city hall, which will teach people with intellectual and physical disabilities how to confidently navigate in the real world with its hands-on-program. Funding for this program included a $1 million gift from The Daniels Fund, a $5.3 million in-kind gift from the El Pomar Foundation and over $4.5 million in combined contributions from Goodwill’s board members and employees, along with gifts from the Chapman Foundations and numerous other foundations, individuals and businesses which all together raised $9.8 million.
Possibilities is located in the old ITT building located at 1460 Garden of the Gods Road, which El Pomar bought last year to lease to Goodwill and then donate it. The 101,000-square-foot building includes a new campus, Possibilities, six Goodwill operations, and Voyages, which was previously Life at the Bluffs adult day program which serves seniors and veterans who need significant attention during the day due to medical conditions such as early Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s, head injuries, diabetes, cancer an other medical ailments.
Possibilities presents a unique learning model that engages program participants through a series of new interactions and experiences. Using advanced curriculum, this first-of-its-kind program connects with participants on an entirely new level, motivating a deeper desire to reach out and engage. Using a simulated community as the core, Possibilities recreates everyday living experiences while encouraging safe and unlimited learning. In this tactile environment participants not only develop new life-skills, they also build self-esteem and confidence. What makes Possibilities truly spectacular is that the program directly connects with the local Colorado Springs community. Through partnerships with local businesses, participants will be able to take newly acquired skills and apply them in their everyday life by engaging and interacting with the community around them.
Now to our tour! I know that there’s no way I can convey in words or pictures how fabulous this place is but I’ll try…
*Did you know…?
Goodwill gives 90 cents out of every dollar they make back to the community…and every single time you shop at one of their stores, you’re helping others. And if you don’t shop at their stores, you can always make a contribution or find out ways you can help in other areas.
When you walk in Possibilities, it’s as if you’re on a movie set…it literally looks like a town square with all its’ “shops” and businesses…only it’s inside a building!
The Art Studio
The Art Studio encourages self-expression by sharing participant’s unique talents in the areas of drama, music, and arts and crafts. Drama brings out their theatrical side focusing on the performing arts to include acting, directing and dance. Music harnesses their inner rhythm using instruments to take individuals on a musical journey such as storytelling with drums. Arts and crafts span the gamut including painting, pottery and photography. These amazing experiences add balance, character and substance to the lives of Possibilities participants, equipping them to more fully engage and enjoy the world around them.
When you walk in the bank, it’s as if you’re actually in a bank. Using fun, engaging and tactile methods, individuals will learn the magic of numbers and how they help manage our world. Currency applications include creating and managing a personal budget, opening a bank account and using the ATM. These activities show participants how to effectively use financial tools to navigate our world. These skills will also integrate with other areas of Possibilities including the General Store, where awareness and understanding of currency using Possibilities “money” allows individuals to make purchases.
The Fitness Center
The Fitness Center provides a wide variety of classes beginning with body education and awareness and the importance of good nutrition. This modern gymnasium features weight machines, aerobic equipment, a track and a variety of exercise classes…with some being equipped to help those even with limited mobility. As participants work on building muscle, they’ll also build self-esteem through physical and mental challenges and competitive team sports. In addition to living healthier and happier lives, skills obtained in the gym will provide participants with added mental and physical stamina to help them more successfully manage the challenges they face every day.
In the spa, clients will enjoy the relaxing environment of Snoezelen (pronounced Snoozelen), which provides a calming, comforting ambience for them to relax and unwind. This was one of my husband’s favorite areas! Snoezelen has specialized sensory equipment and materials that can be customized to each individual’s needs that blends sights, sounds, textures, aromas and motion that provides stimulation and calming of the primary sensory systems. *Goodwill’s website states the word Snoezelen is a combination of two Dutch words; snufflen (to sniff, seek out, or explore) and doezelen (to relax or be in a wonderful place).
The General Store
The General Store serves as a reward and recognition program where participants make purchases using Possibilities money earned from completion of various activities throughout the program. Through the exchange of currency for items in the store, number recognition, as well as addition and subtraction, are strengthened. These transactions also enhance awareness and comprehension of product prices, available cash on hand and personal budget management. As a complement to the sills acquired in the Community Bank regarding saving money, the General Store develops those skills related to spending money safely and wisely.
This is my own personal favorite area….might have something to do with cooking! The apartment is set up to literally look like an apartment. It has three different kitchen areas, with different types of stoves and cooking utensils so that participants not only can learn cooking skills but also be equipped to handle different types of equipment that they might encounter.
In the laundry area, there is a front loading washer and dryer and a top loading washer and dryer (again, so that participants will know how to operate both types) and next to each set is an electronic screen that lists the basic steps of doing laundry. Also in the laundry room, there’s a large closet that contains towels, detergent, ironing boards, etc….everything you can think of to help build skills for everyday living.
Through meal preparation, cooking and laundry, participants will learn to manage a safe, happy and healthy home.
There’s also a classroom where, in order to make the most of the experiential learning opportunities, participants are first provided basic information in a classroom setting. There’s also a City Hall, a Town Square, a Community Center, and a Cafe (where healthy meals are provided at a low-cost) and an outdoor garden area
There is also an on-site medical clinic and full-time CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), along with a registered nurse to provide care for participants for anything from a minor scrape to a cold. In addition to caring for participants, the health center also serves as a training ground for Goodwill’s Certified Nursing Assistant program. Goodwill’s staff is qualified in CPR and First Aid and are able to provide blood pressure checks, weight tracking and administration of medications.
Possibilities provides classroom instruction which provides knowledge as a foundation for skill attainment, which then progresses to the community environment where participants refine their skills. Then, for those participants who have the desire to apply their skills outside of Possibilities, Community Partners are engaged. Community Partners are businesses who partner with Goodwill to extend Possibilities into the community by creating opportunities such as opening a checking account at a bank, grocery shopping in a supermarket or living in a supervised apartment. Obtaining jobs in the community is also part of Possibilities, where new skills provide a foundation for sustained and rewarding employment. And while there are not expectations that everyone who participates in Possibilities will become entirely self-sufficient, everyone will experience new levels of personal independence-making Possibilities a truly amazing and life-changing reality.
For more information on this amazing, first-of-its kind program in the nation, you can call them toll free at 1-855-TO-IMAGINE or visit them online at www.goodwill-colospings.org/possibilities. The program works with those 18 and up (there might be some exceptions, depending on your situation) and is open Monday thru Friday, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Hours might change in the future.) If you know someone who has intellectual or physical challenges, this is an amazing opportunity. I literally left with tears in my eyes thinking of the help and hope this can give to someone….skills, knowledge, fun, self-esteem, and friends….things everyone should have the opportunity to have, regardless of their situation.