STARS Family Services—Giving Adults with Disabilities a Place to Call Home

July 2015 View more

Margaret Jensen Director, Raymond Chase Chairman and President

Margaret Jensen Director, Raymond Chase Chairman and President

Parents with disabled children face many unique challenges, one of which is who will care for their child when they no longer can? The gap between services needed and services available is quickly widening as life expectancies increase. STARS Family Services has spent the last five years trying to help fill that gap by offering semi-independent living homes for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults.

For over 50 years, the STARS ministry at College Church in Wheaton has reached beyond its parish to serve the disabled community throughout the Western suburbs. During that time, medical advances have enabled those with disabilities to live much longer and more fulfilling lives. Since most of the participants in STARS live at home, their parents expressed increasing concerns about being able to care for their adult children as they themselves faced aging health issues. In response to this need, the church established STARS Family Services (SFS) as a separate nonprofit organization dedicated to providing disabled adults with living arrangements and related services outside of their parents’ home.

In 2011, SFS opened the doors to its first home in Wheaton for four adult men. “These men live together in community as independently as possible with the help of a wonderful staff and volunteers,” said Margaret Jensen, a SFS board member. Since then, STARS has built another residence housing five women as well as a third home which is scheduled to open in late summer or early fall.

Residents rely on help from dedicated volunteers and part-time staff to assist in their semi-independent living. Life skills tutors are scheduled throughout the day and evening to help residents with their daily needs ranging from home to personal care. “We wanted to create a group home where residents could successfully develop life skills such as planning and cooking meals, caring for themselves, and completing household chores,” Jensen explains.

Residents also participate in bible studies and other religious activities. “Being a Christian organization, we encourage residents to participate and be involved in the church,” said Jensen. Family members maintain involvement by volunteering one evening each week to visit and spend time with the residents. “I am such a fan of this program,” Jensen explains. “It’s a venue that really lets you get to know the residents and realize how wonderful they are.”

To foster further independence, residents are encouraged to be out of the home from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily to work, volunteer, or enjoy programs in the community. Many residents use this time to work at the STARS Resale Shop located at 1072 College Avenue in Wheaton.

SFS operates independently of church and government funding. Most of its operating expenses are covered by proceeds from its resale store and through donations. They also host a highly successful radio variety show fundraiser in March called “A Little Patch of Heaven,” similar to the style of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion®.”

Like most of the STARS board members, Jensen became involved with the organization because she has a loved one with disabilities. “It’s a real gift to the parents to see their children develop some independence, especially as they look to the future and know their child will be well cared for.”

For more information or to help support STARS Family Services, visit Those wishing to apply for a spot in the homes must first be a part of the STARS program at College Church for at least one year.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon