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20 Years of Dedication

Celebrating 20 Years


The Douglas Center celebrated 20 years of dedication to serving individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities on Friday, March 8th. The luncheon was held at the Holiday Inn of the North Shore in Skokie. Friends, family, staff, community members and officials, consultants and board members all celebrated the organization that has become a home for many individuals with special needs.

It was March 8th, 1999, 20 years to the day, that Rifath Khan rented a garage on Pulaski in Chicago after searching for a place to make her vision reality. The 2,500 square foot storefront with garage needed a bit of work, but friends and family happily lent a hand. The Douglas Center started with 2 staff members, 1 participant, 1 manufacturer, and a vision to have a work center for special needs adults.

When asked about what inspired The Douglas Center, Rifath explained, “People with disabilities are often told what to do, where to go, what to eat, we wanted to have a place where they would have opportunities and choices, not restrictions.” Rifath also honored the parents of participants at the luncheon, thanking them for trusting The Douglas Center with their child.

The celebration kicked off with a historical video presentation, followed by Guest Speaker, Mark A. Collins, Niles Township Government Trustee. Mark reviewed the many accomplishments of The Douglas Center. He continued his talk describing what it means to be a hero, stating “Rifath you and your staff are superheroes. From day one, I saw it. You save the day, day in and day out.” Mark Collins expressed that it is his honor to be a part of the celebration and affirmed his commitment to support the work of The Douglas Center in every way possible.

Mayor George Van Dusen presented Awards for Years of Service to the staff, consultants, board members, and volunteers. Rifath also presented Mayor Van Dusen with an award for “Making a Difference” and for his support of The Douglas Center. Following the award ceremony, Mayor George Van Dusen recognized The Douglas Center for their extraordinary dedication and work in serving those with special needs. “Dreams do come true. It takes people, time and money.” It the mayors wish that The Douglas Center will be available for many years to come in Skokie.

“I am so humbled to have had the privilege of doing this work for the past 20 years. It has been my honor to lead the center in its mission and growth. I am grateful to all who have been a part of The Douglas Center through their support of our mission,” stated Rifath Khan, CEO.

Memorable moments of the Anniversary Celebration were captured by Joe Pizzo of Joseph Studios in Evanston, Illinois. Chris Lavidas of Breaking Grounds in Music entertained guests with a wonderful session of interactive drumming. Guests quickly took to the dance floor for an afternoon finale of fun!

Reflecting on the many years, Rifath ended her speech with this sentiment, “there has been heartache and headache, but look at the good - it’s been just beautiful.”

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