As one of his final acts of service relative to his role as State Representative of the 41st District, Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) is helping ensure those with autism and developmental disabilities have access to quality care, education and innovative therapies for years to come.
Wehrli is channeling every cent of a $3 million member initiative grant to Little Friends, Inc., a local non-profit that supports children, adults, and families with developmental disabilities and autism throughout the region. Over time the organization has grown to a multi-faceted human services agency operating three schools, vocational training programs, community-based residential and respite opportunities, and the Little Friends Center for Autism.
“When member initiative funds become available, many choose to spread those funds out to as many organizations as possible so they can get the biggest press pop,” said Wehrli. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make one sizable allocation that would make a real difference in the community I love. I chose Little Friends because I believe government has a primary responsibility to take care of those who cannot care for themselves, and during my six years in Springfield, I have seen firsthand what a terrible job the state does in this area.”
Little Friends’ primary facility is preparing to move to a larger location that will greatly expand the organization’s ability to serve this area’s autistic and developmentally disabled community. Later this month it will move three miles away to a Warrenville location still within the boundaries of the 41st District. Wehrli toured the new facility on Monday.
“Little Friends will be eternally grateful to Grant Wehrli for his gesture of kindness and support,” said Little Friends President and CEO Mike Briggs. “The allocation of $3 million to help with the renovation of our new school facility will enable us to have long into the future a state-of-the-art facility helping children dealing with autism and other developmental disabilities. Grant has long been a champion of helping individuals whose lives have been challenged with various disabilities, and his actions reflect his commitment to wanting to help others and make a difference in their lives.”
The new 74,000 sq. ft. space will provide for more than 20 classrooms, and when fully built out will allow the organization to more than double the number of individuals they can serve. Today’s caseload of 120 can expand to serve nearly 200 people in 2021 and with capacity to expand to support 300 individuals with specific needs as future requirements dictate. The new building, unlike the current two-story building with no elevator, is also ADA compliant.
The grant funds will cover more than half the cost of the construction loan, and will also provide for modernized technologies. “This investment in Little Friends positions the organization to have a bright future enabling us to spend what money we have on future programming for children and adults,” added Briggs.
“When it comes to putting these member initiative dollars to good use, I can think of no more deserving organization than Little Friends,” said Wehrli. “By relieving some of the financial burden from their expansion project, they can focus on their true mission of providing critical services to vulnerable populations. Knowing I helped provide this assistance is truly the highlight of my legislative career.”
The official paperwork is under final merit review. While Wehrli hopes the funds are transferred before he leaves office in January, his colleagues on the House Republican leadership team have committed to staying on top of the final review and making sure the funds are delivered.