Teamwork really can make the dream work.
The Answer, Inc. and West Humboldt Park Development Council (WHPDC) hosted an autism awareness open house at the Salvation Army, 825 N. Christiana Ave., on March 1. The event represented the first collaboration for the two organizations.
The purpose of the open house was to gather information about autism and special needs for local residents. The West Humboldt Park Development Council works collaboratively to develop, implement and sustain processes that improve the quality of life for people, families and businesses in the West Humboldt Park community, according to its website.
The Answer Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support, resources, education, recreation and advocacy for families affected by autism and developmental disorders.
The partnership between The Answer, Inc., and WHPDC stems from the friendship between both agencies’ respective leaders: WHPDC’s executive director, Katrina Thompson, and The Answer, Inc.’s executive director, Debra Vines.
The duo previously worked together on community projects in western suburbs. The Answer, Inc., which is based in suburban Forest Park, has set up a satellite office at WHPDC’s main office, 3620 W. Chicago Ave.
Thompson explained if she and other like-minded individuals did not champion for autism awareness, it would be “out of sight, out of mind”.
“I incorporated autism into our program because of the partnership and relationship that I have with Ms. Vines, so wherever I go, autism goes with me,” said Thompson. “We have limited resources, so I want to make sure that we offer all of the resources that we can possibly offer to people of color.”
Through the partnership, The Answer, Inc. is now able to extend its reach beyond the suburbs. Vines said she felt “blessed” that Thompson invited her organization to be part of the WHDC.
Providing autism-related resources and information to the African American community was one of the initial motivations behind the creation of The Answer Inc., said Vines.
She said it was difficult for her and her husband to find resources for their now 29-year-old autistic son. Vine’s response was to create an organization to help provide people of color with the answers on autism, and related mental disorders, that she and her husband had. That was 10 years ago.
“We are working really hard not just to strengthen the mindsets of the families impacted but also the community agencies, leaders, legislators, businesses and everything across the board,” said Vines.
Despite the scarcity of financial resources, The Answer Inc. will press onward, said Vines. The agency does not have in-house case workers, but refers individuals to various outlets.
“Funding is an issue with everything right now,” said Vines. “We continue to work with our fundraisers and corporate sponsors to keep our doors open. Katrina told me this a long time ago: Just keep working and the money will come. I love what I do so much that sometimes it just doesn’t feel like work.”
Life-long West Humboldt Park resident Estella Solid and her 8-year-old son, David, who is autistic, attended the open house in support of Vines. Solid said when she first met Vines, she told her, “You need to be on the West Side.” She gave God all the credit for Vines’ western migration.
“I’m a part of the Answer Inc. family,” said Solid. “I always try to help Debra out when needed.”
Solid said there aren’t other resources similar to The Answer, Inc. on the West Side.
“You can come to a family support meeting and cry and somebody understands your tears,” said Solid.