Chrestomathy marks 25 years of useful learning

A specialized day training and habilitation program for high-needs clients is marking 25 years of service by hosting an anniversary […]

A specialized day training and habilitation program for high-needs clients is marking 25 years of service by hosting an anniversary fundraising jubilee.

Chrestomathy got its start in July 1985 with 15 developmentally disabled program participants in South Minneapolis. In 1984, Hennepin County planning staff asked Linda Moore, a psychologist and her associates to design a new type of specialized day program for individuals with intellectual disabilities and high needs.

Moore and her associates had provided residential housing for more than a decade to individuals who had come primarily from state institutions. They already specialized in working with individuals deemed “difficult to handle” so they were approached by Hennepin County to develop a new model for day program services for the same population.

Mary Hill, a longtime board member and a teacher with Minneapolis Public schools and Moore, a psychologist and executive director, contemplated names for the new program they helped to found. They agreed upon Chrestom-athy, selected for the Greek derivative meaning of “useful learning.” The unusual name has served as a conversation starter for several years and has fueled the program’s continual quest to provide meaningful, inclusive life experiences for all participants.

Moore had served as an expert consultant as other states tried to emulate Minnesota’s success in developing community services and she has always been passionate about inclusion and quality service provision tailored to the individual. Her interest and knack for working with individuals with intellectual disabilities emerged when she was in elementary school, she said.

As part of the request for a proposal, Moore and her colleagues were asked to carefully contemplate the structure, programming and the cost of a new day program service to be sure that the service needs of some of Hennepin County’s most challenging clients with intellectual disabilities would be met in the coming years. The county was embarking on final plans to move everyone living in institutions into the community and needed to be sure support services were ready. Plus, there were already very high need individuals who were underserved or not served at all by existing programs in the community and more young adults graduating from public schools. 

By 1992, Hennepin County requested an expansion to a second site to serve the southwestern metropolitan area. In 1995 Dakota County officials requested that a program be developed in Burnsville to serve some of their most difficult participants. Chrestom-athy now has sites in Minneapolis, Eden Prairie and Burnsville.

Chrestomathy is well known for quality service provision driven by a passion for excellence. Moore herself brings 36 years’ experience to the program. Few programs have the expertise to work positively and confidently with individuals who act out, cannot communicate well or have not yet learned to participate in a group setting with enthusiasm and a positive outlook.  Through the years, family and team members have at times been astounded at what participants have been able to achieve and the remarkable growth they have made.  Many participants now have community jobs. All have a sense of inclusion and meaning in their lives, as they get up, go to work and have a place where they are challenged to learn and grow on a daily basis.

Family members, social workers and client praise Chrestomathy; “For my fourth year being at Chrestomathy Center, I have learned lots of new skills that I couldn’t do without this program,” client Jill wrote. “O, I remember way back when I started at Chrestomathy four years ago, I really didn’t want to be there, but now I am thankful that I decided to stay.”

One family, whose severely disabled son learned anger management and work skills through Chrestomathy, wrote, “When Paul was young, we never considered the possibility that he could work for money. We were wrong. . . He has instead become a happy, affectionate, well-liked and often charming person.”

“Community employment was just a dream that Chrestomathy made happen for Kate,” another family member wrote.

Chrestomathy hosts a 25th Anniversary fundraising jubilee Thursday, July 15 at the Marriott Southwest Hotel, 5801 Opus Parkway, Minne-tonka. Tickets are $10 each and  must be purchased in advance to reserve a spot. Gourmet food and drink, live music, a silent auction and special guest speakers will be featured. 

Email Robyn@chrestomathyinc.org  if you would like to attend. If you cannot attend, but have a story or memory to share, please email that, too