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Golisano Foundation provides $120,000 grant to LARC

By Staff | Aug 29, 2019

Ann Costello

Lee Association for Remarkable Citizens (LARC) has been awarded a $120,000 grant from the Golisano Foundation to support the expansion of LAB: Learn, Achieve, Become.

LAB will offer an experiential learning environment for hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that transforms traditional program areas into spaces for innovation, vocation, demonstration and learning. Five Labs will focus on skills for work and independent living and include Lab for Living, Wellness Lab, Smart Living Lab, Vocational Exploration Lab and Collaboration Lab.

“The goal of LAB is to prepare individuals with IDD for success and meaningful inclusion in our community,” LARC Executive Director Kevin Lewis said. “That requires important skills that build upon each other. Not only vocational training, but self-care, managing their day to day environment, navigating technology, and interacting with others. LAB works because we recognize each of these layers as crucial components to increased independence and empowerment.”

The Golisano Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the nation devoted to supporting programs and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was founded by philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano, who has supported several non-profit organizations in Southwest Florida including Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The foundation’s grant will support phase two of LAB, which prepares space for the Wellness and Smart Living Labs on LARC’s Fort Myers campus. It also supports a LAB staff person who will oversee and implement the LAB curriculum. The Wellness Lab provides a place to learn about healthy living, fitness, nutrition, oral health, advocacy, skills for self-care; all paramount to success in every day work and life. The Smart Living Lab teaches people how to live and thrive in a touch screen world, from ordering meals, navigating transportation, applying for jobs, operating everyday appliances, using the internet and computer software.

“We are honored to receive this grant from the Golisano Foundation, which is the largest private foundation grant in LARC’s 65-year history,” LARC Development Director Angela Katz said. “There are more than 3,700 children in Lee County Schools with cognitive disabilities and the foundation’s generous support will allow us to better prepare the individuals we currently serve and future generations to live more independent and fulfilling lives.”

“We appreciate the important role and services LARC has provided to those with IDD in Lee County over the organization’s long, proud history. We’re happy to assist the agency as it evolves to address current and future needs by creating opportunities for independent living in a more inclusive community in SW Florida,” Golisano Foundation Director Ann Costello said. “LAB’s innovative, person-centered approach will empower more individuals with IDD to make their way productively and creatively in their communities.”

The Wellness and Smart Living LABs will complement the LAB for Living, which opened in July. LABS for Living is a mock apartment-style setting that provides participants with hands-on training in daily living skills. Phase three, which is planned for the future, will include the Vocational Exploration Lab, with a commercial culinary training kitchen designed to meet the needs of hospitality employers, and the Collaboration Lab, which will introduce LARC participants to change makers in the community. Initially, all of the Labs will be accessible to LARC participants as well as families. Over time, LARC’s goal to offer schools and other likeminded organizations access.