The Lois Lloyd Center offers an array of services to nearly 80 clients with developmental disabilities from Evanston, Morton Grove and Skokie.

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When Patricia Lloyd was born nearly 60 years ago with severe developmental disabilities, doctors told her parents, Lois and Thomas Lloyd, to “put her in an institution and forget about her.” Debbie Shulruf, director of the Lois Lloyd Center, 2525 Church St., told the story of the founding of SHORE Community Services, to visitors on a bright October morning.

Mrs. Lloyd felt there should be an alternative for her daughter, Ms. Shulruf continued. Finding none, she began a school in the basement of her home. After the basement, there was a church, and, even later, the school that became Park School, now located at 828 Main St.

But eventually even Park School was unable to provide sufficient services for Patricia Lloyd, so in the early 1950s, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd founded the North SHORE School for Retarded Children. The organization expanded and evolved into SHORE Community Services – a not-for-profit organization that serves intellectually and developmentally delayed adults, with structured day activities. 

The push for inclusion in public schools since 2000 decimated the school-age children in need of private services, said Ms. Shulruf, but services offered in the building remain aligned with their original purpose – to provide life-enhancing services to persons with severe developmental disabilities. Since 1983, the 16,000-square-foot building, built by private funds and owned and operated by SHORE, has been called the Lois Lloyd Center. 

In those early years, SHORE and its landlord, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), had an easy relationship, based on a 50-year lease for the property at $1 per year. But during the period of the lease, MWRD  began a policy “that its lands located north of Devon Avenue to and including the Wilmette Harbor shall be dedicated exclusively to open green space and public recreational use,” Allison Fore, MWRD public affairs specialist, told the RoundTable

SHORE remains on the Church Street land on borrowed time. Thanks to a permit from MWRD, SHORE can remain there until Feb. 28, 2016.

The time extension comes with a price tag. “The rent used to be $1 per year; now it’s $12,000 per year with an increase of 10 percent each year. … They want us out,” said SHORE’s Executive Director, Debora Braun.

David Lloyd, son of Lois and Thomas Lloyd and brother of Patricia, said, “I don’t think they’re picking on us. … The economy stinks. … It’s a different environment than it was 60 years ago, when my dad and mom started this. Now because of more economic problems it’s more complicated.”

The increase in rent comes at a time when the State of Illinois is in such severe financial crisis that it is behind in its payments to many social service agencies.

 “By the end of August, the state owed us $1.2 million,” says Ms. Braun.

In response to its need to relocate, SHORE’s board of trustees is already preparing to mount a capital campaign to either purchase or lease another site, said Natalie Romano, president. “We’re beginning to raise funds. Because of the loss of this lease, we’d prefer to purchase a building. We’re looking to raise about $2 million, because whatever property we purchase will have to be renovated and tailored to our needs.”

Mr. Lloyd expressed a similar sentiment. “If we’re going to pay rent, we might as well build our own building.”  Said Ms. Shulruf, “We can’t find a building and just put fresh paint on the walls.”

Ms. Braun said, “The difficulty in finding a new location is we need parking; ADA curbs, bus access. … Finding a building is going to cost a lot.”

“And take property off the tax rolls,” said Mr. Lloyd – “not a popular move.”

Ms. Romano said, though, there has been a “very positive response” to these early efforts.

Mr. Lloyd says he believes there is a need for the services SHORE provides. “If we didn’t exist,” said Mr. Lloyd, “79 people would be sitting on the couch, putting additional burdens on their parents, who often are aging.

 “We are the best-kept secret – the most awesome program in the state. We don’t have famous people on our board. We don’t have sex appeal. We just get into the dirt and get the job done.”

The “job” is offering an array of services and supports to adults with developmental disabilities. The Lois Lloyd Center provides structured, small-group activities to nearly 80 adults with severe developmental or intellectual disabilities.

The Lois Lloyd center serves nearly 80 clients who live in Evanston, Morton Grove and Skokie. Day programs at the center include “activity training, exercise and community activities,” said Debbie Shulruf, director of the center.

 “A lot of developmentally disabled people in wheelchairs just sit and eat and gain weight,” said Shulruf. We work on goals based on an individual’s need.
Each one has an independent program developed by an interdisciplinary team.” Cooking  activities, exercise and community excursions are part of the routines
of most clients.

Each goal, even though it may seem miniscule, is designed with a successive goal in mind. “Everything we do is [tied] to graduated steps,” said Ms. Shulruf. 
For example, a client might have an initial goal of learning to hold something, with the further objective of learning to hold a toothbrush. “It takes 32 steps to brush one’s teeth,” she said, “such as knowing where the sink is, knowing where the cold water is.

“But we don’t want everything to be work. [We] try to have fun: music appreciation, literature hour and community integration activities,” said Ms. Shulruf.  A community integration activity might be a trip to a museum, a store or a restaurant, where clients learn, for example, to purchase a soda. Such activities bring reciprocal exposure, she said: Clients use their skills or learn new ones as a group they “help educate the public while we’re there,” she added.

“The staff members here are dedicated,” said David Lloyd. “Some have been here 10 years or more.”

Ms. Shulruf said, “In the 19 years that I’ve worked here, we have done everything we can to accommodate individuals who need our services. We have never turned away anyone we thought we could help.”

Said Mr. Lloyd, “This is not just a holding center here; this is vital.”

SHORE Services

Shore’s housing includes the Patricia Lloyd Townhomes Evanston and scattered sites in the North Shore area, with varying degrees of support. A training center in Morton Grove offers community employment services, supported employment program (job coaches, to assist employees and employers of about 170 persons annually), said Ms. Braun. Shore also maintains a senior training program for retirees and Second Time Around, a thrift shop in Skokie. In-home respite services are contracted out, said Ms. Braun.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...