Agape Hopes to Make Clients' Dreams Come True

June 27, 2016

Kathy Walsh Nufer

Post-Crescent staff writer

Charles Jones would like to spend an evening talking with an astronomer. He is fascinated by stars and planets.

Columbus Kaustinen dreams of visiting a newspaper or TV newsroom to see how the news is put together.

Both men could soon have their wishes come true, thanks to Agape of Appleton's Project "Live Your Dream."

Agape is a nonprofit agency that provides community-based residential services for people with cognitive and physical disabilities. It serves about 135 people in programs that range from basic home care to intensive 24-hour supervision in group homes.

Like many nonprofits, Agape has been hit by state and federal funding cuts, said Services Coordinator Mary Robertson. That means the agency has limited resources for clients to enjoy such "simple pleasures" as attending a baseball game or a performing arts event.

Agape staff members designed Project "Live Your Dream" with the hope that with some creativity and community support, they can help clients achieve their dreams. Donations to support the project are being sought.

"We've been told our main focus needs to be food and shelter. We say we are not here to provide just food and shelter," Robertson said, adding Agape's people-centered approach focuses on promoting independence, dignity and respect for people with special needs. "We want to go beyond that. We're at a point (where) we won't give up on people being able to experience new things."

Project "Live Your Dream" starts with clients writing down their wish, as Jones and Kaustinen did recently. Both men live in Agape group homes.

Once clients identify an activity they've never done before, they are matched with staff to help them live that dream, Robertson said, noting requests are flooding in. Among the latest are spending a day at a spa, milking a cow, running a marathon, riding with a police officer in a squad car and camping at High Cliff State Park.

Every Agape employee is involved in identifying, arranging and accompanying clients on these outings. The staff have started making the necessary contacts to fulfill clients' dreams this summer, Robertson said.

We welcome any kind of donations or gifts as some things will cost us money," she said. "We'd also welcome the donation of a day at a spa or airplane ride."