Inclusion Empowers Everyone

June 7, 2019

The curtain opens, the stage lights come on, and the actors take their spots. At North Star Community Services, inclusion takes many forms, including theater.

“One of the things we do at North Star that I’m incredibly proud of is our theatrical production,” said Valerie Schwager, North Star Executive Director. “It gives clients the opportunity to practice their speaking skills, display emotions and drama in a way that is appropriate within our society, and at the same time, gain confidence because their talents, their singing skills, their dancing skills, their acting skills, all get to shine. Nobody sees it as anything different than an actor or an actress on the stage.”

For nearly 45 years, the organization has served people with disabilities in the Cedar Valley, and over the years has expanded its reach to seven additional counties in an effort to help individuals live fully inclusive lives.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa and its affiliates have been helping North Star fulfill its mission by granting over $665,000 since 2003 to programs and services like its Inclusion Through Theater program, client technology aids, and to support transportation needs in shared rural areas, to name a few. These programs are all pieces to the much larger picture of inclusion in our communities.

“Each person, no matter whether they have a diagnosis of a disability or not, has purpose. They can contribute in a manner that fits for them. As a community, we should embrace each person’s strengths or talents and their skills,” said Valerie.

North Star also partners with CFNEIA to ensure long-term stability, holding an endowed and a quasi-endowed nonprofit fund with the Foundation.

Without these, we’d probably be at higher risk, especially now with the Medicaid funding and some of the challenges that come with that. We have this kind of fall back if we need it until we are able to establish alternative funding to sustain ourselves, said Valerie. I know the fund is well maintained. I know it's well protected and reviewed. So to me, it’s incredibly valuable for us and our sustainability for the services we provide.

"The support we’ve received from the grants, I don’t even know that I can honestly put it into words that express the impact it makes. To know our community does recognize that our persons need additional supports to be successful in their communities speaks volumes.”

Valerie Schwager