Member Spotlight - Amy Singer and the Joshua Tree Community
Amy is a special needs teacher who lives in St. Charles with her son Reggie and two dogs, Odie and Enzo. Amy founded the Joshua Tree Community to provide support and involvement for adults with mild intellectual disabilities. Amy taught for twenty-three years in the public school system and was disheartened to see that her students began to lose their skills after they left the school system. She decided to build a community of volunteers, members and donors committed to enriching the lives of these students. She chose the name “Joshua Tree Community” to honor her brother who passed away in 2003 from cancer. In addition to being a loving father, brother, and uncle, Josh was also a very creative person with a magnetic personality who lived his life to the fullest. His spirit lives on today through the work and efforts of the Joshua Tree Community. The name also reflects the nature of the Joshua Tree which is slow growing but has deep roots that create an unfaltering and steady environment. Joshua Tree students may grow at different paces, but they are strongly rooted in the community that continues to embody Joshua’s legacy. A quotation that inspires Amy in her work for Joshua Tree is from Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to share it.”
As a 501 (C)(3) not-for-profit Structured Day Program, the Joshua Tree Community’s curriculum helps students become lifelong learners, creators and adventurers while making friends along the way. The first Joshua Tree classes began in April 2014 in the basement of St. Mark’s Church in Geneva under the leadership of Father Mark Tusken. They remained rent free at St. Mark’s Church in a loving, caring environment until Covid hit and everything closed down.
When things gradually opened up again in the summer of 2020, Joshua Tree was not able to return to St. Marks because their classroom area was not air conditioned and did not have sufficient air circulation. In late July, Amy read in the Chronicle that the Kane County Cougars were not going to have a season after all. She reached out to Cougar Stadium management and inquired about utilizing outdoor space for classes. Cougars Vice President and General Manager Curtis Haug offered Joshua Tree a rooftop space during August and September at a reasonable rate with private restrooms and access to the building in case of weather or safety issues. In October, Joshua Tree moved indoors to the Super Suites, and students had the option to attend all day instead of just half day sessions. In February 2021, Curtis offered to make the stadium Joshua Tree’s permanent home to provide a “safe, secure and fun environment.” This arrangement allowed Joshua Tree to provide a robust curriculum for a full enrollment of 15 participants and a waiting list.
Over the years, the Thursday afternoon Fine Line students created a variety of projects such as making valentine stencils, marbelizing paper and painting silk scarves. Other art lessons included weaving, ceramics, jewelry, basket making, printmaking, painting, tie dye, drawing and collage. Other Fine Line instructors also assisted students along the way, including Jose Avalos, Jay Walsh, Jodi Younglove and Robin Schoenburg. Fine Line instructors Susan Infante and Nancy Krahn presented special workshops in printmaking and jewelry. Joshua Tree “regular” volunteers also helped students at Fine Line on a continuing basis.
In April 2022, students celebrated the 52nd international Earth Day making thematic calendars and journals. The students also created tie-dyed shirts that will be used to create a template for the Cougars baseball team’s special team Jersey. The players will wear the jerseys during their August 6 home game. Joshua Tree students will attend the game and be recognized on the team’s jumbo screen.
So, what is ahead for the Joshua Tree Community? Seeking funds to keep the program going is always on the agenda, and the upcoming “Canvas for A Cause” is an opportunity for people to receive a beautiful original piece of art while supporting the Joshua Tree Community. The fundraiser was proposed by Joshua Tree’s volunteer and Board Member Lori Hansen. Canvases will be auctioned off virtually May 1 – 15 with all proceeds going the Joshua Tree Community. For more information, see the blurb in the May 2022 issue of Create.Communique or contact Amy at 630-485-1064 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.