HEADLINES

The Darien Foundation awards grant to support Abilis expansion to Darien

The special needs community in Darien will be benefiting from new programming and services, courtesy of Abilis, the nonprofit that serves more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families from birth throughout their lives. Abilis is excited to be expanding some of its popular programs and services in the Darien area.

Abilis currently serves the area with programs in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton and Ridgefield, but has found its programs to be even more successful when implemented in the communities where individuals and families supported live. Coming this fall are four new Abilis programs and supports that will help provide job training, life skills, employment and housing to those in the Darien community.

“We are so excited to expand our programs and supports in Darien,” noted Amy Montimurro, CEO and president of Abilis. “We have found that our most successful programs are those that are within the communities we serve, where community members have friends and family close by and program participants are familiar with the streets, shops and residents. Having these four initial Abilis programs, and more to come, in the Darien community, will only strengthen our ability to help more individuals with disabilities or special needs.”

Effective immediately, Abilis will start accepting applications for its Abilis LEAP Transitions Program and Project SEARCH, a ten-month internship at the Darien YMCA to provide job training.

The Abilis LEAP (Life Skills, Employment, Advocacy and Partnership) program is a partnership with the Darien Depot Youth Center. The program helps young adults with special needs develop important independent life skills to become more independent, obtain meaningful jobs and participate in community activities. This highly sought-after program is currently supporting communities in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Wilton, Westport and Ridgefield. The Darien program is taking applications and those interested may apply by contacting Luis Velazquez, Abilis’ senior director of Day Services at 203-531-1880 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“We are very excited to have the Abilis LEAP program available for Darien young adults with special needs,” said Janice Marzano, program director at The Depot Youth Center. “We are providing space and the use of our facility and know this will be a very successful partnership and program for the community.” 

Project SEARCH is a ten-month internship program that uses an evidenced based curriculum designed to help individuals with special needs increase their vocational skills and self esteem, with the end result a job in the community upon graduation. Project SEARCH Darien is being run in partnership with the Darien YMCA and participants must apply and be selected for this competitive opportunity. The Project SEARCH participants will rotate through different jobs within the YMCA learning marketable job skills. This program is specifically for those with special needs and disabilities. Abilis currently operates a successful Project SEARCH program with Greenwich Hospital and the curriculum is part of a national program run by Project SEARCH at hospitals throughout the nation. To apply for the Darien Project SEARCH program, call 203-531-1880.

“Having Abilis come on board and bring its successful Project SEARCH internship program to the Darien YMCA is a win-win for both organizations, the individuals in the program, and the community as a whole. We are excited to see the program develop and hopefully expand in the future,” noted Jennifer Gardner, chief executive officer of the Darien YMCA. 

Opening later this year will be the Darien Library Café - a partnership between the Darien Library and Abilis to manage and staff a Café at the Library and provide training and work opportunities for community members with special needs. Modeled after the successful partnership with Greenwich Library, the Darien Library Café will feature partnerships with local popular eateries that Abilis will bring in to serve at the Darien Library. The food will feature delicious grab-and-go breakfast items, bagels, coffee & tea as well as lunch items, such as sandwiches, salads, wraps, snacks, drinks and more.

“We are really looking forward to having Abilis be part of the Darien Library,” said Kiera Parrott, director of the Darien Library. “We’re especially excited about the delicious, locally-sourced food and amazing coffee the new Abilis-run Café will offer our patrons. The inclusiveness of the Café and Abilis’ mission are very important to us, and we are excited to be able to provide meaningful employment to adults with special needs and involve them in the fabric of the Library and our community.”

Later this summer and early this fall, 12 new large studio apartments in two Darien homes with close proximity to exit 13 and I-95, located in a residential area, will be made available as part of Abilis’ Darien REACH Supported Living Program (Residential, Education & Employment, Activities, Community, Health) for individuals 18 and older with special needs. The Abilis Darien Apartments on East Lane are a partnership with Baywater Properties to provide affordable housing that allow people with disabilities to live in their own apartment with supports from Abilis. These unique units fill a void in the housing market and are being built specifically with ADA compliant features to help those with disabilities live a more independent life. Abilis will provide overnight staffing at this Darien location, as well as vehicles to transport individuals to jobs, shopping locations, and social and recreational activities. Additionally, the residential facilities include a recreation room and outdoor picnic areas. Abilis is accepting applications for its Darien location now, so the REACH team can introduce community members and develop friendships. Abilis anticipates strong demand for the 12 apartments and encourages interested families to contact Jennifer O’Gorman, director of Admissions and Clinical Services at Abilis at   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or 203-531-1880 x 132. To find out if this opportunity is a good fit for your loved one or to learn more about our REACH program, visit the Abilis website at abilis.us/life-services/reach.html.

“As a company, we are deeply committed to providing accessible, affordable and inclusive housing in Darien. Partnering with Abilis struck a chord with us on so many levels, and we are excited to provide these beautiful apartments to adults with different abilities as a part of our redevelopment project in downtown, The Corbin District. We know that having individuals supported by Abilis actively a part of our community, as residents and working in local jobs, will help bring so much joy and pride into their lives… and our lives,” noted David Genovese, founder of Baywater Properties. 

Abilis is also thankful for the generous $65,838 grant from The Darien Foundation to fund the technology and equipment that is needed for the start-up of these meaningful offerings. 

“We are thrilled to award a grant to Abilis to support the capital costs of the organization’s expansion into Darien,” noted Sarah Woodberry, executive director of The Darien Foundation. “These are successful programs that will bring opportunities to individuals in Darien and enhance our community. It is wonderful to be a part of this collaborative partnership led by Abilis.” The Darien Foundation is a 501c3 public charity that awards grants for technology and capital initiatives which promote and strengthen the community of Darien. Their mission is to create opportunities for Darien’s youth, support the town’s safety and security services, and enhance the overall quality of life in Darien.

To learn more about Abilis’ programs and services in Darien, call 203-531-1880 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Abilis is celebrating its 70th year in 2021 of being a 501c3 non-profit organization that supports more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families from birth throughout their lives. Abilis is a leader serving the special needs community in Fairfield County, Connecticut, in towns including Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford, Westport, Weston and Wilton, and has a long-standing reputation for individualized, high quality care. For more information, visit www.abilis.us, or facebook.com/Abilisinc, twitter.com/Abilis, or instagram.com/abilis_us.

Pictured are Darien partners with Abilis in front of the two new homes in the Corbin District of Darien that will house the Abilis apartments.
From left to right: Kiera Parrott, Darien Library, David Genovese, Baywater Properties, Jennifer Gardner, Darien YMCA, Sarah Woodberry, The Darien Foundation, Amy Montimurro, Abilis, Ward Glassmeyer, The Darien Foundation, Kesti Aysseh, The Depot Youth Center, and Kate Perez, Baywater Properties.
 
Photo credit: Cara Gilbride, Callalily Studios

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