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A Labor of Love in Salt Lake County

Dec 01, 2023 01:04PM ● By Peri Kinder

TURN Community Services volunteers shop, wrap and deliver Christmas gifts to more than 200 people with disabilities throughout the state. (Photo courtesy of TURN)

It’s been 50 years since a group of parents got together to create a program where adults with disabilities could live in a traditional setting and experience being part of a community. Project TURN is now TURN Community Services and its mission is to turn dreams into reality.

Two-time Best of State winner, TURN offers day programs, residential living, summer camps, supported employment and art programs to participants from 11 to 80 years old. It also provides Christmas gifts to 200 people with disabilities through its Labor of Love project.

“We provide Christmas for people with disabilities and we open that up to the community,” said Alyssa DeHart, TURN director of development and communication. “People are able to submit names and profiles of people who would like help…It’s entirely funded by donations and volunteers who shop, wrap and then deliver the presents as well.”

The Labor of Love project has been going on for at least 30 years, helping hundreds of people with disabilities enjoy a fun holiday. Volunteers in the community deliver gifts to each one of the TURN offices in the state, from Ogden to St. George. The gifts are then distributed to some of Utah’s most vulnerable residents. 

“We have volunteers that come year after year, some have participated for more than 20 years, and they bring more friends and extended family members each year because they find it so rewarding to help these people who often have no family members left to help with their basic needs and holiday celebrations,” said Cynthia Proctor, Labor of Love director. “They know they are extending critical help to this overlooked and underserved part of the community whose needs are very real, extensive, and still often invisible.”

For information about volunteering with the Labor of Love project, contact DeHart at [email protected]. The drop-off location in Salt Lake County is at 423 W. 800 South.

Along with the Labor of Love project, TURN provides support for individuals with disabilities by providing individualized care in a residential setting. Support includes health care, socialization, financial management, transportation, leisure activities and community events. 

TURN’s art centers help people express themselves through the power of creativity with art classes, dance lessons and music education. The classes offer a chance for participants to build skills, explore the world, enhance self-expression and tap into their own artistic talents. Several artists in the program have submitted art for various fairs and contests. 

A popular program at the nonprofit is employment services which helps individuals with disabilities, ages 14 and up, to find work in their community. Counselors take time to meet with each person to determine their skills, interests and abilities and then help them find a job that matches their preferences, allowing them to develop independence. 

“Our mission statement is turning dreams into reality and that helps us focus and maintain our ideals of serving people,” DeHart said. “Sometimes we focus on sustaining life but enhancing life is really what we want to do. We want each individual to be able to have dignity and hopes and dreams and discover new abilities.” λ