THRIVING ART PROGRAM ENRICHES THE JOSHUA TREE COMMUNITY
Volunteer Carol (far L) poses with JT participants who show off one of their notecard designs -- a painted zebra. Also assisting are 8 year-old Aubrey and her mother, Meg, to the far (R). Volunteer Linda Palmer, not pictured, led the notecard project. MORE PHOTOS BELOW.
Linda Palmer, a retired area veterinarian who is also an accomplished artist, and Amy Singer, a former Geneva, IL special education teacher, didn’t know each other five years ago. Luckily that all changed when their respective dreams unexpectedly crossed paths.
For Amy, opening her non-profit, structured day program, Joshua Tree Community in 2014 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Geneva, was the culmination of a dream come true to help younger adults with intellectual disabilities. And for Linda, it would come to provide an extremely satisfying volunteer opportunity that was also conveniently located in her very own church at the time.
But it took a lucky nudge to bring the two women together.
After retiring from a busy vet practice, Linda asked herself, “What do I do now?” The answer was easy – return to art. She was aware that Amy’s school was successfully underway and had entertained thoughts of teaching art there someday, but hadn’t followed up.
“In a quiet moment at home,” Linda recalls, “I heard God say, ‘Quit thinking about this and just do it.’”
Not long after, Linda walked through a parking lot where she overheard a woman talking about Joshua Tree. She walked up to her and asked, “Are you Amy Singer?” And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Linda now provides a 3-hour art class monthly which she estimates requires about four-to-five days of advance preparation.
“First, I have to think of a project they’ll enjoy, purchase the supplies and do it myself to iron out any kinks,” Linda says. “When I arrive, they’re always so happy to see me, give great hugs, and are very excited to do the projects I bring.”
Amy’s participants attend Monday-Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM (lunch is included) and range in age from 22 to 58. The curriculum she designed aims to help them become lifelong learners, creators, and adventure seekers while also giving them the opportunity to make friends along the way and have fun.
“Art is a big part of our regular programming thanks to volunteers like Linda,” Amy explains. “She’s a natural teacher and raises the bar for them. We’ve watched their creativity grow and it’s fun to see their enthusiasm.
“In addition, our van also transports them to Fine Line in St. Charles for a wide variety of other art activities where they can weave on the looms there or learn to work with clay and do ceramics.”
Rounding out their activity roster are also a cooking club, yoga, maintaining a garden plot at the James O’Breen Community Park in St. Charles, and volunteering regularly at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, also in St. Charles.
“Overall, our Community thrives on the work of our volunteers, like Linda,” Amy sums up. “They make an invaluable contribution to our program.”
And, it sounds like it goes both ways as Linda concludes, “I just love my time there – it is so gratifying. Honestly, I get more out of it than they do.”
To order the original art notecards participants have designed under Linda’s tutelage (featured on this website’s HOME page), email Linda Palmer at: email@example.com. She will provide payment instructions as well as delivery.
Notecards include envelopes and cost $10 for a set of seven designs. All proceeds from their sale directly benefit The Joshua Tree Community. For more information about The Joshua Tree Community, click: www.joshuatreecommunity.com
Linda Palmer and Stephanie work together on her painting.
JT participants also enjoy regularly scheduled outings to Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, IL
Encouraging one-on-one instruction benefits both participant and instructor with positive end results!