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Willows Way Expanding Facility to Meet Demand for Unique RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement Program

Adults with developmental disabilities participate in program's daily structured activities

Extensive renovations are underway at St. Charles County-based Willows Way to accommodate its growing RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement Program.

Established several years ago, the organization's RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement Program gives adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome and cerebral palsy, an opportunity to participate in daily structured activities that promote social networking, volunteerism, community involvement and physical activity. “The program has become so popular it has outgrown its current space,” said Willows Way Executive Director Joy Steele. 

"This program is so unique in its design and has such an outstanding reputation in the community that it quickly filled to its maximum capacity in the space where it is currently housed," said Steele. "At this time, we have about 25 folks in the program and a growing waiting list of people who want to participate. We simply don't have the space." 

Jeremy S. of St. Charles, MO has been on the waiting list since November. The expansion will give Willows Way much needed space to expand the program and accommodate people wanting to participate, like Jeremy, who wants to get out more and make some new friends.

Recognizing the significant need in St. Charles County for adult day services, Willows Way looked to initially expand its program, but opted instead to expand its current facility at 800 Friedens Road to accommodate more participants. 

Willows Way owns the building that it occupies, but only had offices on the lower level and rented out the office space on the top floor. Over the last year, two of their tenants decided not to renew their leases allowing Willows Way the opportunity to expand within its own building rather than move to a different location. 

"This expansion option would be less costly and create other efficiencies," said Steele. "We wouldn't be remodeling a rented space, but rather one that we own. We approached the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board for possible funding and they gave us a very generous $200,000 equity grant to offset some of the cost of the project."

Over the next few months, contractors will be renovating the building's top floor for Willows Way's business offices, installing stairs and an elevator to connect the two floors, and remodeling the lower level to expand the RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement Program, and other programs such as Realities, which provides developmentally disabled adults up to 8 hours of individualized services per week. Approximately 12,000 square feet is being renovated, at a cost of nearly $575,000.

Steele said she does not anticipate any disruption in services while construction is underway, and is planning an official ribbon cutting ceremony in May, 2017.

About Willows Way

Willows Way promotes independence and personal growth for people with intellectual and physical challenges through a variety of social-service programs. These include: Realities, which provides up to 8 hours of individualized services per week; Individualized Supported Living, which provides up to 24-hour-a-day support to allow individuals to live independently based on their needs and goals; RISE - Reaching Independence Through Social Engagement, which offers participants daily structured activities designed to promote social networking, community involvement, volunteerism and physical activities; and Project HEART, which provides stimulating, person-centered health education classes, skills training and resource information to people with developmental disabilities. For more information about Willows Way, visit or call 636-947-6591.