Our Story — Leslie Brownlee
My name is Shannon Brooks. My sister, Leslie, is 54 years old. Leslie is incredibly artistic and loves to paint, do latch hook and needlepoint puzzles, and bead. She loves to game on her iPad, loves chocolate, and will be the first to show empathy when you are hurt, sad, or just need someone to ask, “How are you?” Leslie is truly one of a kind with a huge personality and a witty sense of humor — she’s someone you never forget if you have the pleasure of meeting her. Leslie lives in Peoria, her hometown for the last 42 years, with housemates she has known for more than a decade through Community Workshop Training Center. Our family moved to the Peoria area in 1980 — Leslie was 10 years old at the time. Sometime in early adulthood after graduating from Jamieson School, our mother was able to work with the special needs community and get Leslie placed at CWTC as a packager. Our mom was incredibly active and pushed for Leslie to be as independent as possible. She wanted Leslie to know her special needs were only a barrier sometimes. Leslie could still do everything every other person could do — dance, roller skate, or ride a bike.
CWTC has been an incredible part of Leslie’s life for 25 years. She has benefited from the opportunity to be a part of their occupational development as well as working to earn money for her care and spending. CWTC is more than just a work location for Leslie. She has established long-term relationships. The organization has provided opportunities for extracurricular activities. The staff is incredibly patient — they know Leslie, they know when she’s having a good or bad day, and how to care for her and redirect her when necessary. Leslie has been able to participate in so many events at CWTC — too many to name them all, but a few include art classes at The Hive, bowling, and outings to the zoo and Wildlife Prairie Park. Over the years, Leslie has visited Disney World and shopped at the Mall of America as well as many other activities under the coordination of the fabulous working team at CWTC.
I love that CWTC is an extended part of our family. We can reach out to Leslie’s supervisors, managers, and the director at any time to discuss a plan for Leslie’s care. They are very proactive, aware, and supportive of each client’s needs.
Leslie is one of four girls and we all have seen how she thrives in a structured environment with a great deal of independence as well. With the support and training that CWTC has complemented with the family dynamics over the years, Leslie can travel to and from work on her own, shop at Walmart by herself, and take herself out to eat. I often serve in the big sister capacity, but our sisters, Enid and Allysen, are equally as active in Leslie’s life and care. We are a prideful sister team! We have witnessed Leslie’s journey over the years and the maturity that has come from her being able to communicate and navigate the outside world with limited direction. Leslie is very comfortable at CWTC — she can be herself. She has lots of friends, and it truly is a community as the name indicates.
I honestly don’t know how my parents would have handled the mass responsibility of care by themselves and for someone with Leslie’s needs without the support of CWTC. Our family is grateful for the instructional and educational value of teaching and supporting our special needs community in addition to promoting interaction with others, how to deal with emotions, self-care, leaning into activities everyone else can do, and helping them understand they are loved and appreciated like every other human. It’s a huge undertaking for a family. My mom had an incredible relationship with many of the leaders at CWTC and was a very active parent. With the support of CWTC, Leslie has thrived over the years. I love that CWTC is an extended part of our family. We can reach out to Leslie’s supervisors, managers, and the director at any time to discuss a plan for Leslie’s care. They are very proactive, aware, and supportive of each client’s needs. You can tell they care and are a long-term support network, which means so much. CWTC is a treasure in the Peoria County area, and I wish there was more the community knew about their organization, how to support them, and the clients who are cared for and work there.