Finally Fitting In
It all started with dodgeball. Laurie, a single mom in Villa Park, wanted a place for her teenaged son, Cory, to interact with other people. Cory is on the Autism Spectrum, and though he is high-functioning, other sports programs hadn’t worked for his unique needs. So, they tried The Salvation Army Oakbrook Terrace Corps Community Center, where they frequented the gym – and Cory discovered the joy of dodgeball.
“The people were so awesome and welcoming,” Laurie said. Soon she and Cory were attending Easter egg hunts, the scouts program, and Sunday morning services. “It felt like my son didn’t have a disability. We were treated one and the same.”
In addition to needed community, Laurie found help with her family's financial needs. Caring for her son, who is now 18, and dealing with her own health problems has prevented Laurie from holding a steady job. Her mom was a huge help, until she passed in 2019. And then the pandemic struck and many assistance programs disappeared.
“Suddenly I had to make choices – do I feed my son or pay our taxes?” Laurie said. “Even with assistance from the utility company and other places, it’s not enough.”
At the Oakbrook Terrace corps, Laurie received help with utility bills, clothing, and food. She now frequents their Rescue Food program on Thursdays, where she is especially grateful for premade meals, toiletries, and dog food for Luke, Cory’s service dog.
“The Salvation Army is one of the few pantries where I have ever been able to find dog food,” Laurie said, adding that Luke is a big, vital (and hungry!) part of their family.
“The Salvation Army has been extremely generous,” Laurie said. “It’s meant we can keep our house.” Based on her family’s history, she’s not surprised by the Army’s assistance. Her father, who was orphaned at a young age, had extensive teeth and ear problems. The Salvation Army paid for the dentist and doctor who helped him.
“There are a lot of really caring people there,” Laurie said of her community at the Oakbrook Terrace corps. “I couldn’t ask for a better place.”