A Lifetime of Meaning Comes from a Lifetime of Care

By Shana Erenberg, Ph.D., Libenu Executive Director


What makes Libenu so special and such an important part of our community? Is it our innovative services and programs that provide the gold-standard of care for our clients? Is it the passion, dedication, and decades of professional expertise of Libenu’s leadership and staff? Or is it that Libenu is the trailblazer in responding to critical, unmet needs of people with disabilities and their families? Whatever the reason, Libenu transformed the lives of people with disabilities and their families and has a significant impact on the Chicago Jewish community and beyond.

Libenu is at the forefront of independence and inclusion for people with disabilities and is internationally recognized as one of the most innovative nonprofit organizations in the United States. Our kosher, shomer Shabbat group homes and apartments provide fully accessible, beautiful, state-of-the-art living options in community settings that are comfortable and familiar for our residents. Libenu clients also participate in a wide variety of vocational activities and meaningful day programs that promote self-sufficiency. Libenu empowers people with disabilities to live their best lives by fostering healthy relationships through inclusive social, recreational, and educational activities. We firmly believe that people with disabilities deserve to live fulfilling lives, with dignity and respect, as fully included members of their community.

Libenu also provides high-quality professional after-school respite services for younger children with special needs through Lev Chicago Respite, offered in partnership with Jewish Child and Family Services. We recognize that parents who have a child with special needs often find themselves overwhelmed with the constant demands of caring for their child while trying to balance the equally important needs of their family. Simple things that most families take for granted – sharing dinnertime, helping the other children with homework, or even a quick trip to the grocery store – can become seemingly impossible tasks. The stress takes an enormous toll on the entire family, which can result in exhaustion, depression, isolation, and hopelessness. Lev Chicago provides desperately-needed assistance to families by offering professional, dependable, well-structured respite services in a warm, nurturing Jewish environment. Children and teens enjoy a variety of social and recreational activities centered around Jewish holidays and traditions, as well as a delicious, healthy kosher dinner. A high staff-to-client ratio ensures that everyone’s needs are properly addressed and that Libenu’s “gold standard of care” is maintained.

In addition, Libenu offers vocational opportunities through our community-based social enterprises, such as Cupful’s of Love and Artisan Crafts.  Libenu also collaborates with other agencies to expand services for vocational training, job placement, and coaching. For clients who are not yet work-ready, Libenu partners with organizations to provide day services that will help develop the requisite skills to foster independence. Libenu’s goal is to promote self-sufficiency, independence, and fulfillment for individuals with disabilities.

Libenu is a strong advocate for the most vulnerable individuals in our community. We are not afraid to take risks to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. We work with State and National legislators to be a voice for the voiceless and a force for the powerless.  Whether it is helping parents navigate the complicated system of services for post-high school individuals, or assisting parents of younger children in understanding their legal rights and obtaining services, Libenu is there to help. Libenu also teaches our clients to be self-advocates to the fullest of their abilities. We believe that it is not enough to be a spokesperson for someone with a disability; rather, it is imperative to empower that person to become his or her own best advocate.

Since its inception in 2010, Libenu has improved the lives of people with disabilities and their families, and has had a significant impact on the Chicago Jewish community and beyond. For the past nine years, Libenu provided over 3,900 hours per month of direct care services to our residents and 1,500 hours of nursing care per year. Libenu clients spend an average of 160 hours per month engaged in the community. We provide more than 600 hours per year of after-school respite care. Libenu provides consultation services and educational programs to over 30 communities across the United States and in Israel.

Libenu has accomplished a great deal in a short time, but we recognize that there is so much more that needs to be done. Most of us who are blessed with typically developing children cannot understand the visceral fear and heart-wrenching despair that parents of children with special needs face on a daily basis, especially as they age – but at Libenu, it’s all we think about. It motivates and inspires us to do more, to do better. Every day, year in and out.

Libenu provides much more than just bricks and mortar; most importantly, we offer peace-of-mind for families and assurance that their child’s future is secure. We are love in action. Libenu believes that a lifetime of meaning truly comes from a lifetime of care.





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