Campaign for Independence Exceeds Expectations in Creating Jobs and Homes for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

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Artwork Donation Puts Avenues to Independece Fundraising Campaign Over the Top

“The future of government funding for disability services will continue to be very limited and that’s why the support we’ve built over the last 61 years is so critical to our organization’s ongoing mission,” -Bob Okazaki, Avenues CEO/executive director

Supporters of Avenues to Independence, a nonprofit that works with adults who have developmental disabilities, donated $5.1 million to a recently concluded three-year fundraising effort, Campaign for Independence.

The outpouring of support is remarkable for two reasons. First, it exceeded the ambitious $3.8 million campaign goal by nearly 35 percent, despite an economic downturn. And second, it did so with the help of an unusual donation: three original paintings created by artist Howard Terpning, an illustrator born in Oak Park, Ill., who attained recognition for his paintings of Native Americans.

The Terpning art was owned by Avenues Foundation board member and honorary campaign chair Clarence Herbst, a 30-plus year supporter of Avenues. Herbst, a long-time collector of Terpning’s work, donated three paintings to Avenues for auction at the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, at which they fetched $2.8 million.

Like many not-for-profits, Avenues to Independence is increasingly reliant on private donations as state funding is on the decline.

“The future of government funding for disability services will continue to be very limited and that’s why the support we’ve built over the last 61 years is so critical to our organization’s ongoing mission,” said Bob Okazaki, CEO/executive director, Avenues to Independence. “We are fortunate and grateful that in our moments of need, we have a community that is ready to demonstrate the depth of its commitment.”

Dollars raised have made possible much-needed renovations, provided more residences and expanded employment opportunities for clients. Among the major expansions has been the Avenues Thrift Shoppe in Park Ridge. The expanded store space now includes an area for employment training and an area for entrepreneurial projects that Avenues program participants create and sell. It also features a computer center where participants learn computer skills and sell their work online. Funds have also supported the following:

  • The purchase of a home in Des Plaines that is providing a home for six Avenues clients.
  • A new computer education initiative giving 200 Avenues clients access to computers and training for the first time where they work and where they live.
  • Over $1 million in deferred maintenance, providing safe and accessible housing and work places for Avenues clients.
  • An endowment to fund future programs.

“The Avenues board is deeply grateful to every person who contributed to the Campaign for Independence. Without the Avenues community of support, this not-for-profit would not be able to carry on its valuable work,” said Jerry Feldman, campaign chair. “This was an ambitious campaign but I always knew it was reachable through the collective generosity of the amazing individuals who believe in Avenues and the dignity of employment and independent living opportunities for those who have developmental disabilities.”

“Our supporters have shown us that anything is possible and inspired us to continue dreaming,” added Herbst. “Just as the Avenues clients show courage and resolve each day, this campaign has demonstrated the strength of the Avenues community to make a difference.”


Since 1953, Avenues to Independence has provided homes, jobs and community living programs to adults with physical, intellectual, and other developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy in Chicago and suburban Cook County. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide work and living opportunities enabling those with disabilities to be as independent as possible.

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Lauren Brush
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