Space In Liberty Tree Mall To Serve Over 1,000 People With Disabilities Annually
The Northeast Arc, a not-for-profit organization that helps children and adults with disabilities become full participants in the community, announces the creation of The Center for Linking Lives at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers.
The Center for Linking Lives is designed to serve individuals throughout the North Shore with programs and services that include: support for families who have children diagnosed with autism or other intellectual disabilities, early intervention, residential and health services, supported employment, an assistive technology lending library, and skills training. It will occupy 26,000 square feet of highly visible space in the Liberty Tree Mall to create a vibrant community where individuals with disabilities can reach their full potential while leading a fulfilling life alongside their peers.
“The creation of the Center for Linking Lives at the Liberty Tree Mall is our next bold step in helping individuals with disabilities become full participants in their communities. Access to stores, restaurants, services and potential jobs in the mall will increase opportunities for both real independence and inclusion.” said Jo Ann Simons, President & CEO, Northeast Arc. Since 1954 the Northeast Arc has been creating and implementing innovative programs and services to support people with disabilities and their families.
The Center for Linking Lives will serve a growing segment of the population living with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The statistics are staggering:
- One in six children in the United States today has a developmental disability
- 80% of individuals with disabilities are not included in the workforce and half of this population suffers from chronic loneliness
- More than a quarter of working age Americans with disabilities live in poverty, compared to 10 percent of Americans who do not have a disability
“The Center for Linking Lives promotes community redevelopment and environmental sustainability while serving as a national model for other organizations seeking to enhance inclusion for people with disabilities in underutilized community settings,” said Tim Brown, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Northeast Arc. “Rather than purchasing a separate building and perpetuating the physical separation of people with disabilities, our approach seeks to transform an otherwise unused former retail space into a vibrant center that meets the needs of the individuals we serve within an existing community hub.” Due to COVID-19 restrictions the Center will limit the number of people initially using the space while social distancing and other safety precautions are maintained.
Highlights of The Center for Linking Lives include:
- Adaptive technology lab to train individuals on the latest digital technologies as well as innovative devices that assist with cognitive, physical, and emotional impairment
- A Test kitchen to provide experimental learning of basic food preparation in a controlled setting – a necessary life skill for individuals hoping to live independently
- Small meeting rooms that allow for one-on-one speech or cognitive therapies or mock interviews to prepare job seekers to meet with potential employers
- Group program space for small social or recreational programming
The Center will also include parcels, a 1,000 square-foot storefront offering products created by people with disabilities from around the world. Not only will parcels provide a point-of-sale opportunity for these products, the store will serve as another training opportunity for people in the Northeast Arc’s workforce development program. Philanthropist, Steven P. Rosenthal of Marblehead, Chairman of West Shore LLC, is a long-time supporter of Northeast Arc and was instrumental in making parcels a reality. Rosenthal, who previously donated $1 million to Northeast Arc to create the Changing Lives Fund, provided an additional gift which enabled the agency to purchase the initial inventory for the store.
“Malls are important hubs for community gathering, and the Center for Linking Lives is an exciting opportunity to bring individuals with disabilities into these spaces,” said Mike Connell, Liberty Tree Mall manager. “We’re thrilled to partner with Northeast Arc to help promote an inclusive environment, and we’re hopeful that the success of this project at the Liberty Tree Mall can be replicated at properties across the country.”
Liberty Tree Mall is fully accessible by public transportation and has ample parking. Its accessibility and central location will increase the Northeast Arc’s capacity to serve individuals and families from a wider geographic area. All programs relocating to the center currently are located in industrial park settings or in locations that do not have access to public transportation. Since nearly all of the people with disabilities served through these programs do not drive, having access to public transportation is critical.
The Center for Linking Lives is made possible by gifts through Northeast Arc’s Campaign for Linking Lives, which has already raised more than $1 million toward its $3 million fundraising goal. The campaign is being co-chaired by Ralph James, a Swampscott philanthropist and former Executive Director of External Relations at Harvard Business School and Darcy Immerman, Chair of the Northeast Arc Board of Directors and Senior Vice President, AECOM Tech Corp.
As the parent of an adult daughter with a disability, James knows the impact that a place like the Center for Linking Lives can have. “It’s critical that young people get the education they deserve and, once formal education ends, they have a job that provides structure and positive feedback,” James says. “The Center for Linking Lives addresses inclusion. It forms a community that will benefit the people it serves and everyone around them. We are creating a playbook that can be used across the country and around the world.”
“By introducing the general public to the array of services provided by the Northeast Arc, the Center for Linking Lives will demonstrate first-hand what people with disabilities can achieve if given the opportunity to succeed,” added Simons. “I’m extremely proud of this Center and the staff that made this happen as it is another example of how the Northeast Arc is changing lives every day.”