The year of COVID has been hard on all of us. We have lost loved ones, been isolated from most, and endured many hardships. However, in this year of darkness, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer found a way to shine some much-needed light. This light came in the form of the CORE Project, a school for autistic children. The school’s director, Jules Starr, needed a place to provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, educational opportunities, and respite care for her students and their families. Starr came to us in search of a building, right as the world was closing all its doors. We had a building to offer. As easy as it would have been to say “no,” it was just as easy to say “yes.”
Within weeks our Parish House was transformed into a school. Teachers brought in supplies, decorations were hung, and furniture was placed to form pods. Rooms that had been of little use to us, were converted into classrooms for children with needs far beyond our imagination and the playground was made ready for recess. Once all preparations were complete, the school opened its doors to the first student in April.
Little by little, students began to enroll, and new staff was hired. Some students were also seen at home to help with the new transition and to ease COVID concerns. While we had some concerns at first, watching these children and their progress over this year has removed all doubt. You can feel God’s presence when you walk amongst these children. They laugh, play, imagine, and sing without embarrassment. They provide hugs to friends and are trusting without limitations. They dance with pure joy and they cry without shame. While a large portion of the students are nonverbal, they communicate better than most adults.
The school will celebrate its one-year anniversary on April 24. CORE now has 51 students and a staff of 60; there are also 140 children on an ever-growing waitlist. The school provides services for students as young as three up to early adulthood. They work on behavioral skills, job training, and educational goals. Each teacher will tell you that their students are a gift and a miracle, and I must agree.
COVID may have brought many horrible things to us over the past year, but it also brought our church the CORE Project. The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer is extremely grateful to CORE and is so proud to have a bright light during this dark time.