Evanston autism organization hoping to turn flooding nightmare into dream

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Alex Towers (from left), 15, Emelie Lindberg, 18, and psych supervisor Andrea Johnsen stand in front of the Have Dreams offices Monday in Evanston while it is closed for flood-related repairs. | Jon Durr~Sun-Times Media

Water Main Break at Have Dreams

Temporarily Relocated to: 515 Busse Highway, Suite 150, Park Ridge, IL 60068

Phone: 847-685-0250 Fax: 847-685-0257

Donaions greatly appreciated

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EVANSTON -- Have Dreams, an area autism resource organization, had just that, big dreams, before a water main break last month at their Evanston site at 2020 Dempster St.

The break in the main flooded the group’s 15,000-square-foot center and washed away the organization’s plans to set up a retail-like work place for the young adults it serves.

When the main break occurred, the organization had 15 teenagers and young adults in the building, participating in the vocation program and preparing to work in the community, said Kristina E. Johnsen, the executive director of the organization, which is “Helping Autistic Voices Emerge,” according to its model.

“The water just came literally flooding,” she said. “It was not like seepage. It immediately filled the room.”

Have Dreams serves about 60 young adults in Evanston.

“We were about a week away from opening a Walgreens retail-training-center at our site,’’ Johnsen said. “It was going to be a very cool summer.”

She said the flood forced the organization to relocate to its Park Ridge site, a smaller building where “we already had overcrowding.

“So many kids aren’t getting services,” Johnsen said.

As a result of the incident, the organization is going to have a severe cash flow, said Johnsen, so any donations are greatly appreciated.

Marybeth Swanson, a parent of a child in the program, said her son Steven, 15, was upset at the turn of events. He’s been attending the Have Dreams program since he was 3.

“During the summer he enjoys going there with peers of his own age, people who understand him much better than peers of his age in regular school,” she said.

She said he even wrote Lady Gaga, the performer, asking for help. So far he hasn’t heard back.

“I know she probably has a million requests,’’ Swanson said.

For more information about Have Dreams, go to havedreams.org.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ADDED BY DEBORAH HOPPE, AUG. 8, 2012
To make a tax-deductible donation to assist during this time of emergency, please go to https://havedreams.ejoinme.org/MyPages/DonationPage/tabid/19396/Default.aspx , call 847.685.0250 or mail a check directly to Have Dreams, 515 Busse Highway, Suite 150, Park Ridge, IL  60068.