Five women 'STARS' looking to new group home in Wheaton

STARS Ministry opens new facility for women in Wheaton

 
 
Updated 4/10/2015 9:14 AM
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  • Gwynne Roberts, from left, Diane Freedlund and life skills tutor Jo Billingham take part in craft time at STARS Family Services' new house in Wheaton. Roberts, Freedlund and three other women will move into the home shortly after Easter.

      Gwynne Roberts, from left, Diane Freedlund and life skills tutor Jo Billingham take part in craft time at STARS Family Services' new house in Wheaton. Roberts, Freedlund and three other women will move into the home shortly after Easter. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • This newly constructed house at 377 N. Cross St. in Wheaton will be the second group home STARS Family Services opens for adults with intellectual disabilities.

      This newly constructed house at 377 N. Cross St. in Wheaton will be the second group home STARS Family Services opens for adults with intellectual disabilities. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Carol Casey, life skills supervisor, left, shows Cheryl Newing, right, the closet in the bedroom she will have at the new Jean Hooten Home in Wheaton.

      Carol Casey, life skills supervisor, left, shows Cheryl Newing, right, the closet in the bedroom she will have at the new Jean Hooten Home in Wheaton. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

The correct phone number for STARS is ( 630) 206-0243.

Five women who soon will be housemates at the Jean Hooten Home in Wheaton gathered for a recent afternoon of socializing and getting to know one another better.

They answered questions about favorite activities and dream vacations, did a craft, and played a game of Uno.

Cheryl Newing, 47, a woman with intellectual disabilities who has been living with her parents in Winfield, said she was looking forward to "cooking class" in her new home.

Gwynne Roberts, 48, who lives with her parents in Wheaton, said she'd rather clean.

"I'll trade with you," Roberts told Newing. "I don't like cooking."

The women soon will be sharing house chores as well as their lives when STARS Family Services opens its second group home at 337 N. Cross St., Wheaton.

Carol Casey, life skills supervisor with STARS, said several socials have helped prepare the women for the much-anticipated move.

"I'm definitely seeing some nerves," Casey said.

When STARS Family Services opened its first group home in 2011 in Wheaton, the four male residents quickly adapted to the change and now consider Washington House their home, Casey said. Like many of the adults with intellectual disabilities served by STARS ministry at College Church in Wheaton, the men had been living with elderly parents who worried about what would happen to their children when they could no longer care for them. Since then, one of the men has lost his mother and another his father, Casey said.

STARS Family Services, a nonprofit that is separate from College Church but serves those in the church's STARS ministry, was formed to meet that need for a home that can continue after parents are gone.

The men and women moving into STARS' homes are able to stay in the community and maintain their contact with family while gaining a greater measure of independence. The group home residents are expected to spend at least four hours a day out in the community working at the STARS resale shop or the two resale stores run by College Church, holding other jobs, doing volunteer work or participating in recreational activities.

Diane Freedlund, 59, of Wheaton, who soon will move into the Jean Hooten Home, only recently began working in one of the resale shops -- an activity her mother wasn't sure she could do, Casey said.

"I like it," Freedlund said of her job.

Freedlund allowed that she would miss her mom, but life skills tutor Darlene Yamane said Freedlund has been talking excitedly about the move for two months.

New house

"I've never seen anything so beautiful," said Mona Skalkos of Wheaton of the house her granddaughter, Cassie Tomaras, will share with the four other women, including Katie Kline, 34. Tomaras, 32, already knows her housemates through STARS ministry and other activities, Skalkos said.

"I think it's going to make her happy to be with other friends she knows. I think it's going to make her more independent," Skalkos said of her granddaughter. "(She's) very excited and we're excited for her."

The newly constructed house the five women will share includes a bedroom for each and one room for respite care for families who may need to leave a member there temporarily. Every two residents share a bathroom. Common areas include a kitchen, living room area, and activity room and laundry room in the basement. The upstairs contains an apartment for an overnight, live-in staff member and an office for Casey.

A nearly identical house under construction next door to the Jean Hooten Home will open in late summer or fall, said Ray Chase, president and chairman of the STARS Family Services board. The third house probably will be for men, he said.

With housing for individuals with developmental disabilities scarce in Illinois, Chase said other groups and individuals have visited STARS Family Services with an interest in doing something similar in their own communities. The visitors have included a Jewish group from the Evanston area, whose members were interested in the religious dimensions of the project, he said.

While explicitly Christian, STARS ministry and STARS Family Services includes families who are not members of College Church. With no government funding, money to construct and operate the homes is raised through STARS' resale shop, donations and fundraising. Families of residents pay based only on what the resident receives in Social Security disability income.

Chase said it will cost about $150,000 a year to operate the Jean Hooten Home, including the salaries for six staff members who work primarily part-time. Volunteers and family members provide the rest of the staffing.

Furnishings

An annual musical revue at College Church put on by three women from the church who call themselves the Musical Moms contributes significantly to the operating costs for the homes. Called the "Little Patch of Heaven," the revue's two shows in mid-March this year bought in $90,000, and Chase said he expects another 30 percent or 40 percent of that to come in after the show.

Live-streamed for the first time on the STARS website, the show reached audience members out-of-state.

"That's the most we've ever raised on the two days of the show. My expectation is much more will come in the next six weeks," Chase said.

One of the Musical Moms, Joleen Billingham, is involved with STARS ministry of College Church and will be a life skills tutor in the new Jean Hooten Home. The home is named after the woman who began the STARS ministry at College Church more than 50 years ago.

Chase said STARS Family Services is still seeking donations of furnishings for the new home.

"There are some needs for more of the furniture," Chase said. "We need a flat screen TV and some lamps."

A list of desired items is on the STARS website at starsfamilyservices.org, and STARS also has a registry at Target. For information about STARS Family Services, call (630) 206-0243.

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