LIVINGSTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) — “LifeTown” is a very unique space in New Jersey.
As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams learned in this week’s Stories from Main Street, the safe space is a place where children and young adults with special needs can grow and learn.
The 53,000 square-foot center promises to “redefine the landscape for individuals with special needs.”
Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, head of the Friendship Circle – a Jewish organization that helps children with special needs – help to create the center to help prepare participants with special needs for independent living.
The crowning jewel, according to Grossbaum, is the center’s “Main Street.”
“It's a 11,000 square foot indoor city with 15 fully-functioning stores where individuals with special needs will be able to come in here and learn life skills with our special technology that ties into their IEPs and also job training they'll be going on here,” Grossbaum said.
The center offers real-world scenarios in a safe and controlled environment and focuses on teaching special crucial life skills that they can use in their daily lives.
“Every store they walk into, they’ll be fed curriculum items related to their IEP and then it’ll report back to their IEP, making LifeTown a living part of their education,” Grossbaum said. “So, they learn a skill in their classroom and practice it here in a controlled environment.”
LifeTown also features many unique rooms and activity areas to make the entire center an experience in itself, including a musical walkway and sensory wall.
The nonprofit organization caters to the needs of many individuals and understands that some participants can become overwhelmed in their environment. That’s why there’s even a safe room with musical beanbag chairs.
“This actually helps them feel the music, in addition to hearing it, and it helps them to calm and refocus,” Grossbaum said. “It’s magical.”
Some of the staple pieces of LifeTown include a movie theater, pet shop, medical center, bank and café.
There’s even a football field that was donated by the New York Jets.
It’s brought to life through the generation donations from local businesses including RWJBarnabas Health and ShopRite.
The center relies strongly on the work of volunteers and Grossbaum notes it’s a learning opportunity for them too.
“College students will be interning here, professional businesses and retired individuals will be interning here,” he said.
To find out how you can volunteer or donate to LifeTown, visit lifetown.com.