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Embracing Our Past

Corvilla is, in my opinion, the best-kept secret in South Bend. Corvilla was founded in the style in which I am sure many similar organizations came to be. It was founded out of necessity. In 1959, a group of parents, under the direction of Msgr. John Sabo, got together to provide respite care for their intellectually and developmentally disabled children. A few years later, Corvilla, then known as C.O.R., was formed. With strong ties to the Catholic Church, many local parishes conducted fundraisers on behalf of the organization. The Brothers of Holy Cross, however, were Corvilla’s most active supporters.

The first director of the homes was Brother Flavius C.S.C. During this time, Br. Flavius did not draw a salary; it was donated back to Corvilla by the Brothers of Holy Cross, a move I am sure helped to secure its continuation. In the ’60s and the ’70s, the community support for Corvilla was inspiring. Fundraisers were not only common but always covered in the media.

In 1971, Corvilla moved their home from its original location on Manchester Drive to Bulla Road. This move allowed for the number of children served to double. Above is the original drawing of the remodeled home the grand opening, and this is the home today. A stone's throw from the campus of Notre Dame, many of you may even help Corvilla raise funds by park in our lot for home games. It was not until the ’80s, and the early 90’s that the other three homes were acquired, allowing for the care of up to 28 clients. So for 55 years, Corvilla consisted of only four group homes. A lot happened in 55 years and not much happened by way of growth for Corvilla. As of 2014, Corvilla still served 28 individuals. But 2014 was the dawn of a new era.

Looking to drive change, the Corvilla Board of Directors hired Rick Thompson as the CEO. Rick knew that providing group home services was not enough. Even with all of the other providers in our area, there was still a need for additional employment services and a day program. In 2015, Corvilla employment services began, and in 2016, our day program, Connections opened.

This year we began offering supported living, allowing for a client to continue to live in their own home but receive necessary assistance as needed.

This is Faith. Faith is blind and deaf and has always dreamed of living independently. With assistance from Corvilla, that dream has come true. Faith, like many of our clients benefits form more than one service. She is also a part of our employment services and for the first time in her life, has a job. She works at JC Penny.

In just five short years, under Rick’s direction, Corvilla has grown by almost 800%! In just five years, this organization has gone from serving 28 people to over 240. A much larger building was purchased to accommodate the offices and the day program, and that building is quickly filling up!

Connections gives our clients the opportunity to thrive in a creative, fun, learning environment with other adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. With daily scheduled activities, we create a positive atmosphere where our clients feel safe and engaged. Direct Support professionals who go above and beyond like Randell working on reading skills with John. Welcoming visitors from the community like Deputy Anderson, and his police dog arrow. Our clients loved meeting Arrow and watching him take down a “bad guy” who was actually the deputy’s brother in protective gear.

Connections also offer an art program called Studio five9. The artist work with traditional mediums such as painting, drawing, and bead work but as of this year, studio five9 also offers our folks the opportunity to create furniture in the new wood shop. learn more at studiofive9.com As for Joe, the wood shop has really helped him find his confidence and a purpose. All of the pieces our artist create are available to purchase, and the proceeds go directly to the artist.

Thanks to the Purdue Master Gardner's, Connections has its very own raised bed garden. Our clients can spend the afternoon harvesting vegetables in the sunshine while learning life skills and increasing dexterity. Fresh herbs and vegetables in the Summer and in the Fall, pumpkins and squash, our clients help in the full process from planting in the Spring to Winter clean up.

Our employment services program is our largest division. Did you know that 20% of the workforce in the United States is made up of people with a disability? Corvilla Employment Services offers job matching, which includes job shadowing or an internship to help the client and the employer decide what position would be the best fit.

Above is is Katie and Liam both work for Martins and love their jobs! Molly, above right, works for Notre Dame food services and is one of the hardest workers we have seen. Our Employment Services department helps individuals who want to get back into the workforce or are entering it for the first time. They support and encourage independence and responsibility.

The PreETS program or Pre employment transition services is a branch of our employment services program. It offers students ages 14-22 with an IEP or 504 plan who qualify for vocational rehab assistance in the transition from HS to the workforce. Through this program, we serve 11 schools, 250 students provided 5560 hours of service and work with 50 local business.

This program allows students to work their way through the steps of career and college exploration, internships, self-advocacy, and workplace readiness.

Above is Graduation Day at Hubbard Hill which has been an excellent pre ETS partner and even threw our students a formal graduation party upon completion of the program. Several of the students went on to work as traditional employees of Hubbard Hill, and others went on to work with different companies. The PreEST program is so important to many students who only remain in school because of it.

Corvilla’s growth over the past five years is a testament to the dedication and vision of its leadership and staff. In October, we will celebrate our 60th birthday. I think about the parents who, 60 years ago, began this journey down an uncharted path. I am not sure they could have imagined where Corvilla would be today. But I like to believe that they would be proud of what Corvilla has accomplished.

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