Autism Nonprofit to Create Life Changing Vocational Program

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Walgreens, Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels and ABT Electronics work together to help expand skills

Have Dreams, a nonprofit autism resource agency, will work with Walgreens, Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels and ABT Electronics to create a transformative vocational program for adults with autism. The program was recently announced at its Night of Dreams Gala. Have Dreams Executive Director Kristina Johnsen believes this is an important leap forward for autism services.

“It is imperative to address the growing population of adults with autism,” said Johnsen. “There are a catastrophic number of young adults with autism aging out of mandated public education who have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Giving them a place where they can continue to learn and gain work experience is the next major hurdle in the autism community.”

The Centers for Disease Control recently released new autism prevalence rates stating that 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys have been diagnosed with autism. The need for services has never been greater, especially for adults with autism, where resources are scarce and Have Dreams is stepping up to help fill this void.

The scope of the program is still under development but one prominent feature will be the retail training center Walgreens is building at Have Dreams’ Evanston site. Adults with autism will have the opportunity to learn and practice retail skills which can later help lead to gainful employment and a more meaningful future.

“Walgreens has a rich history of growing talent and recognizing ability,” said Walgreens chief diversity officer Steve Pemberton. “As we are committed to creating and maintaining a diversified workforce, this new training center will provide hands-on experience, grow confidence and help open more doors to opportunities in the retail world.”

Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels will also play an important part of the vocational training providing a variety of jobs and learning opportunities for adults with autism.

"Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels is honored to partner with Have Dreams," says Kim Oster Holstein, CEO and Chief Inspiration Officer of Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels. "When we started our company in 1995, we vowed that good must come from every pretzel baked. Together Kim & Scott's and Have Dreams will live Pretzels with a Purpose and strive to make a difference in the lives of so many."

The pilot program is scheduled to begin in September with a small number of young adults with autism who look forward to starting this new phase in their life.

About Have Dreams
Have Dreams is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families with autism. Have Dreams provides autism-intervention programs to individuals with autism, helping them learn important communication and social skills enabling them to develop into contributing members of their communities. Have Dreams also provides autism training to educators, families and other professionals, as well as diagnostics, assessments and family resource services. Have Dreams was established in 1996 and has locations in Park Ridge and Evanston, Illinois. For more information please visit http://www.havedreams.org.

About Walgreens
As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (http://www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America’s first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides nearly 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 7,847 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.

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Kelly Passaneau
Have Dreams
(847) 685-0250 107
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