In compliance with the State of Illinois’ food handling regulations, Gateway set about to train all participants in the guidelines in proper food handling for certification.  Participants train and work in the kitchens and in Dorothy’s Can-Do Cafe.  For the majority of food companies, stores, and restaurants, the certification process is a no brainer for its employees to complete.  For Gateway participants, it’s a different story and a story worth telling. 

Let’s begin at the end of the story.  While this newsletter is going to print, 19 participants and one former GLT participant, Derrick, who now has a part-time job in the dishwashing room, await the results of their test scores.  Three participants, William, Colleen, and Lee have already earned their food handling certification.  What took place to secure this achievement was nothing less than a communal effort on the part of GTL instructor Aldona Falkiewicz, the participants, and on everyone’s commitment to succeed. 

Just how did they do it when many participants can’t read or may have a limited vocabulary?  The answer is in the learning methodology created by Aldona with support from Program Director, Donna Potyrala-Zajac.  Pictures and small group discussion wherever feasible appeared to be the right combination to engage participants in their learning.  Aldona also talked about each guideline as it applied to the participant’s real-life food handling situations.  To take the test, she would read the question, and then the participants in their small group would decide on the correct multiple choice answer.  The first training session took place in August and September, a record time for everyone to complete it.   

When asked what impressed Aldona most about the participants in this learning event, she didn’t have to think twice.  She quickly noted that it was the participants’ ability to sit patiently for two hours at a stretch to learn the material.  The training was a five-hour program.  No one wanted to leave the room or get up to walk around.  Aldona saw that the participants were enjoying their time to learn something new.  This experience speaks volumes about people with intellectual disabilities.  The desire to learn, to be in the game of life, and to connect with others does not discriminate.  It only invites them to live in their greatness.

Gateway is proud of its participants who can perform their food handling responsibilities with the best of them. The participants realize the importance of their responsibilities, and that’s one step closer to self-confidence and personal fulfillment. 



GTL is veryfortunate to have educational andadministrative professionals who are dedicated to its mission and the development of its participants. They have impressive backgrounds in their field and a story to tell.  In this edition meet:

Christina (Chris) Smolen, Assistant Fundraiser, is the silent giant behind Gateway’s major fundraisers – the Fall Fest, the Holiday Bazaar, and past Winter Concerts.  With her gifts of multitasking, meticulous organization, and resourcefulness all done from behind the scenes, she orchestrates and executes these events with precision and a whole lot of caring. 

Chris’ association with Gateway started in 1989 when she and her husband, Bob, GTL’s current board president, attended Gateway’s Annual Dinner Dance. From that time on she immersed herself in the inner workings of Gateway first as a volunteer and then as a  paid employee.  Chris became a board member and soon became the Board’s secretary.  After retiring from her teaching position with the Chicago Public Schools, she filled in as the GTL’s Adult Program Director and also as the secretary/receptionist when both individuals went on their maternity leaves.  Wherever there was a gap in service, Chris was there to close it.  With the fundraising events getting bigger and more complex, Chris’ role at Gateway became formal when she took on the position as Assistant Fundraiser. 

When Chris is able to take a long breath, she’s travelling the globe with Bob, singing in her church choir (she took it down from singing in four choirs at one time to one choir!), and living life to the fullest.  As this year’s Fall Fest will be Cheryl Hennelly’s final one as Executive Director, Chris invites all families and friends of Gateway to attend and to celebrate Cheryl’s tremendous contribution to their lives.


The Construction Industry Service Corporation, known as CISCO, adopted Gateway to Learning as its charity beneficiary for its annual golf outing on September 11, 2017. The skilled union working men and women, and the union contractors in attendance raised $3,000.  

Gateway is honored to be selected as a charitable recipient and wishes to thank CISCO’s sponsors and participants for their contributions to this donation. 


Friday, November 3, 2017

Lone Tree Manor
7730 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles, IL

Dinner with Open Bar, Dancing to Legacy Band,  Silent Auction, and Raffles

Where would Gateway be without its Fall Fest – a time where all of Gateway’s family, friends, participants, and staff can come together to connect and celebrate Gateway’s mission. We’ve moved the location this year to Lone Tree Manor in Niles, IL based upon some strong recommendations. If you haven’t attended one of the Fall Fest celebrations over the past years, consider this your year to attend. Contact Chris Smolen at 773-784-3200 for more information about tickets, silent auction, grand raffle, and liquor raffle.


Call 773-784-3200 for more information.

GTL Closed
Friday, October 6, 2017 through
Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall Fest
Friday, November 3, 2017
Lone Tree Manor, Niles, IL

Call La Vitta at 773-784-3200 for more information.

Gateway to Learning
Special Education
and Training Center

4925 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625-2609

P. 773-784-3200
F. 773-784-3299

 Dorothy's Can Do Cafe
4925 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625-2609  

Learn More >>>


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