The heARTwords Community Celebrates the Season in Grand Fashion


In December, the heARTwords community gathered with guests for their Annual Holiday Party. Just as happens at other heARTwords sessions, participants were given several writing prompts from which to choose. As usual, the first 1½ hours was spent writing. After the food and drink was served, time was spent sharing each others’ words in a safe, open, caring space. During the event, there was much laughter and some emotion-filled was a warm and wonderful afternoon.

Center for Independent Futures (CIF) Life Skills Tutor, Barry Siegel, is a published poet and the founder/facilitator of heARTwords workshops, created to encourage participants with special needs, gifts, and disabilities to express their feelings, observations, and imaginations through the written word. Barry has been leading a heARTwords workshop for CIF participants and community members as part of CIF monthly activities offerings since October 2009 with the support of many volunteers, including family, friends, and students from Northwestern University and other educational institutions. In 2013, the average number of attendees for the bi-monthly sessions was 25.

“An important part of heARTwords workshop is the discussions we have after all the attendees have completed the writing assignment,” explains Barry. “Everyone is encouraged to respond to any of the other writers’ pieces, always in a positive and constructive way.” Barry continues, “We get to know each other better and discover new ideas, places, opinions, people…we all leave enriched and reassured that we are much more alike than we are different.”

The heARTwords CIF workshops are just one of CIF’s monthly activity offerings. Others include a variety of activities such as weekly yoga classes, volunteer opportunities, Dating Club and Expressive Arts Studio. To learn more about the activities program, contact Margaret Tanenberg at 847-328-2044.

Check out our Annual Holiday Party photos taken by Geoff Starr.


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