Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
March 9, 2016 // Local

Connecting communities at the Logan Center in South Bend

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

The Logan Center’s Best Buddies program partners Logan clients with students from the University of Notre Dame. The center’s fashion show highlights the Best Buddies volunteers.

By Jennifer Miller 

SOUTH BEND — The Logan Center, a place for opportunity and resources for people with disabilities, has had volunteers since it’s inception in 1950. In fact they have been “the lifeblood” of the center. But in recent years the mutual relationship and depth of connection between the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College students and Logan Center clients has increased. Student volunteers have helped since the 1970s and now with development of older programs like Best Buddies, Super Sibs and expansion of faculty engagement in the community new programs are successfully connecting the communities.

The Logan Center in its mission “exists to support people with disabilities in achieving their desired quality of life.” Ranging from birth to elderly age, clients may have a range of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or a traumatic brain injury. They offer a variety of resources and opportunities, including 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. adult day services. During the day program, clients can choose from various studios, like art, nutrition or sensory.

Best Buddies is an international program, which connects persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) with a student to form a positive friendship. Clients range in age from 16 to 40 and there are over 90 college students who volunteer to participate. They share in recreation, such as dances, crafts or bingo. Coming soon, they are hosting “Breaking Barriers: Best Buddies Fashion Show” on March 29, to promote respect for the IDD community.

Bre Hutchinson works as volunteer coordinator at the Logan Center, and interviews students for Best Buddies. She looks for students that “have the heart for it.” Hutchinson recruits from all the local area schools, 14 years of age and older, as well as colleges. She also connects individuals who have a sibling with IDD with client’s siblings in a program called Super Sibs.

The Community Based Learning (CBL) program connects the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame and the Logan Center to aid students in combining a community component to their academic studies, where their personal experience connects with theoretical discussions. Shelley Zabukovic works with Annie Cahill Kelly and Connie Mick in coordinating these relationships between professors, their courses and the Logan Center.

“What I love about it is students who come in are quite vulnerable and often put aside their fears or anxiousness and usually end up staying, having an amazing experience,” Zabukovic describes. Once a freshman core-writing course taught by Professor John Duffy envisioned partnering one student and Logan client for the semester. In building mutual relationships, the students interviewed their partners and wrote their life stories, many of them turning them into bound books.

These CBL courses are from a variety of departments, such as psychology, theology or the fine arts. The student volunteers from CBL bring a “fresh spirit” with them. “We orientate the students as well as reflect with the students afterwards, asking them “you came and what does that mean?” Zabukovic explains. “Our clients love the continuity and seeing familiar faces (of the students). They bring a certain “rock star” mentality to Logan.” Zabukovic also describes how they help Logan’s clients through the transition times when the students are away, such as Christmas break, by creating a visual calendar. Some students also send postcards over breaks and visit for clients’ birthdays, strengthening their relationships through the years. They also visit for recreational activities such as bowling and dances. Occasionally when the students are looking for greater exposure into the advocacy experience, Zabukovic is able to introduce them to protective service caseworkers that they shadow to see inside their realities. She also supervises yearlong interns from the Master of Divinity Program (MDiv) at Notre Dame. “They have been energizing. And truly say, ‘We are the next generation of advocates!’”

“There is always a need for advocacy for our clients,” says Zabukovic. “We hope with the student volunteers’ experience at Logan they will take with them that vision and mission wherever they may be … and Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students go everywhere!”

Lorraine Cuddleback, a graduate student in theology from the University of Notre Dame, has done just that. Stemming from her studies of liberation theology, she felt the call to engage with people on the margins after her MDiv degree. What began as her own desire to understand through personal experience, Cuddleback volunteered part time in an art class at the Logan Center and occasionally attended the recreational events, such as the long-standing Friday afternoon bowling.

She has found that both student volunteers and Logan’s clients were eager to be in genuine relationships. In fact, some of the most “profound and virtuous relationships” that she has observed have been at Logan, especially between clients meeting at various activities.

“There is a mutual vulnerability when in relationship,” Cuddleback explains. “This is an experience of grace, which is rooted in the everyday things … that which we might take for granted.” She highlights that the clients are especially aware of the everyday things, which in turn enriches the student volunteer, who often have a very structured schedule and might miss those small details and opportunities of grace.

Cuddleback understands her experience at Logan as being an active part of the Body of Christ, in community and responsible for everyone, regardless of baptism. Studying disability in theology, she describes how a person’s capacity for need is permeable. “Nurturing is needed at the beginning and ends of life. There is kind of a myth of self-sufficiency. We all have different levels of need throughout our life.” Also, her time at Logan reminds her of the prophetic call of the Church to “force ourselves out of self” for the good and building of the Kingdom of God. This is preciously the advocacy and hope of Zabukovic, connecting communities together.

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March is Disability Awareness month 

The Logan Center will offer the fundraiser “Nose On” as well as the Great Logan “Nose On” Luncheon March 22. 

Disability Awareness Day is March 30. The Logan Center will offer local area fourth and fifth graders the opportunity to learn more about disabilities through 10 educational stations, such as “Say No to the R word!,” “Living in a Wheelchair” and “We are all different.”  

For more information contact Lindy Dreher at [email protected] logancenter.org, or 574-289-4831.

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