LifeTown, Livingston (2019 NJBIA New Good Neighbor Award Winner)

Welcome to LifeTown. This is an
incredible space made possible by the entire community. It’s home for
Friendship Circle, which has been for 19 years offering programs for children
with special needs. LifeTown is hard to explain because there’s so many
different spaces that are unique to what goes on here. The village that we are in
right now, the pool, the outdoor fields, the gym, and all the other activity
spaces, allow individuals with special needs who first of all feel comfortable
participating in the programs side-by-side with their peers, but also is a place
where they’ll be able to learn life skills and job training in a comfortable environment
and then be able to go out to the real world and apply those skills. This
village will be an opportunity for everyone to come together and experience
life together, it’s not only for the individuals with the unique abilities to learn
the skills that they need, be it life skills, job training, or how to navigate
the real world, but also because we are going to have adult volunteers, teen
volunteers and others would be part of the experience here. What happens in LifeTown
is really an incubator for what will happen in the real world. We had the
first day that we opened the building, we had one of the moms just walking down
the hallway and one of our staff members passed by and as she’s holding her
child’s hand, she just says out loud as if nobody, “This place makes you feel proud
to have a child with special needs.” That moment, when I heard that story, that
was worth it all. That’s what the whole purpose of this project was, to have a
place where the community as a whole feels comfortable coming together and
interacting and, through this, making our world a truly inclusive place.

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