History of Zack's Place
Zack's Place (ZP) is an inclusive, free enrichment center whose mission is to empower special-needs people of all ages to express themselves through art, music, dance, literacy, athletics, and fitness while developing bonds of friendship. The Section 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization was founded in 2006 by the parents of a teenager who were seeking fellowship and creative outlets for their son with Cerebral Palsy, who would soon age out of the public education system. With few post-educational resources available, Zack's parents created "Zack's Place" in answer to the daunting issue of what do special-needs individuals and their families do after their school years have ended. Our center is financed solely by event income, grants, and generous donor-based support.
ZP originally began in 2006 as an after school program, but soon grew into a full day program. We are centrally located in the beautiful Village of Woodstock, Vermont, and within walking distance of the public library, the Town Green, the elementary school, a public athletic field, play grounds, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, the Dana House Museum, the Woodstock Recreation Center, Town Hall Theatre, and Billings Farm. We utilize all of these facilities in any given month.
The wheelchair accessible building contains an art studio with space for extensive art projects and a bright, open room for various activities such as exercise, dance, yoga, music, theater program rehearsals, and socialization, and contains a full kitchen. In May 2014, we successfully completed a six month capital campaign to raise $442,000 to allow us to buy the building, all with private donations and grants. We have since painted the exterior of the building, and have completed renovations including the addition of a second restroom facility.
The participants are actively engaged locally through service events and have become well integrated into the community at large through a wealth of activities that incorporate community members into our programs. We offer employment, social, and life skills training; cultural, educational, artistic, and fitness programs all of which provide participants with a full day of planned activities. Morning programs include a business modeled greeting card program, photography, arts and crafts programming, and volunteer work for other local nonprofits. Mid-day and afternoon programs include: art; music; dance; theater; reading and writing; science; fitness; nutrition; cooking; adaptive sports including skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, and horseback riding; and two Special Olympic teams featuring snowshoeing and skiing. The continued delivery of these programs is vitally important to our participants who anxiously wait for our doors to open so that they can begin another day of activities where, they are not only fully engaged in programming, but where they have a great social life as well.
We serve more than 60 participants of varying ages with special needs resulting from physical, cognitive, and developmental challenges such as cerebral palsy, Autism, and Down syndrome. Less than half our constituents live in Woodstock while others routinely travel from distances of up to 40 miles. ZP serves the special education community in a unique way, offering programming that compliments the public school system by augmenting and reinforcing the educational and social bonds offered through those programs. An annual summer program combines the elementary school student special education program with participants and activities taking place at our enrichment center. The students visit ZP weekly, joining us for special art and cooking projects. Each spring, the Woodstock Union High School student council organizes a prom for ZP with decorations, refreshments, and a DJ. We join with high school students, family members, teachers, and volunteers to dress up and dance for hours in the high school gym. In addition to serving the special needs population, ZP also serves as a learning center for mainstream students, administrators, teachers, and community members who join us as instructors or volunteers, or as partners in special events. A few of our programs have senior citizens or high school students joining in the dancing, singing or exercises classes. These are all people who might never know or be touched by the abilities and talents of our ZP population. In addition to this, ZP has over 400 volunteers that serve in one capacity or another each year.
We derive funding solely through donations, grants and fundraisers. Our annual fundraisers have experienced great success due to the generosity of our local community which has embraced ZP in an extraordinary way. Fundraisers include: The Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (a 5K road race), The Stay at Home Tea (an annual mail fund drive), and The Dine Around (a series of themed dining events hosted by families who incur the full costs and that are sold through a catalog with all revenues going to ZP) and the Woodstock Phone Book (revenues are derived from advertisers). We also receive contributions from private donors, and lastly, we solicit and receive grants from many foundations.
Zack Frates (for whom Zack's Place is named) died suddenly in September 2011, but his legacy continues. Anyone stopping into our center will feel the joy, camaraderie, pride, and well-being emanating from the family which is Zack's Place. It has become their home away from home where they have real friends who share in their accomplishments, sorrows, fears, and joys, and where they mingle with community members. Our vision for Zack's Place has been fulfilled. This is a place where people's lives are truly enriched every day.
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