Our Story

For over five decades College Church has come alongside persons with developmental disabilities, ministering to them and their families with the love of Jesus. The ministry now known as STARS involves over one hundred families. Going well beyond the College Church congregation, STARS is an outreach throughout the western suburbs providing Sunday morning Bible classes, recreation and respite programs, retreats, music programs, and parents' dinners and meetings. It has grown spontaneously out of great need, and has been sustained by selfless, committed volunteers.

As the ministry has matured so have the STARS. For the first time in history many people with disabilities have normal life expectancies. One single mother, Ann Cole, was so concerned about what might happen to her son Curt if she died that she prayed she would survive him. God answered her prayer and Ann left his Special Needs Trust to College Church with the hope that one day a home would be established for people like Curt. Many aging parents share the same concerns for their STAR’s care and welfare, even when they are no longer able to provide it.

In response to the great need, STARS Family Services (“SFS”) was established as a separate nonprofit organization with its own Board of directors and no financial dependence on the church, though under the jurisdiction of the elders, who elect its directors. The goal is to follow the trend of establishing small, supportive living arrangements but with a decidedly Christian homelike atmosphere for our STARS. Space in such facilities is virtually nonexistent in Illinois, which is 51st out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in providing for them.

SFS will focus on helping our STARS develop life skills needed for independent or semi-independent living, such as grocery shopping, meal preparation and cleanup, taking public transportation, personal hygiene, coping skills, and some basic job skills while at the same time making it possible for them to continue living in the community, participating in STARS activities, and being an integral part of College Church.

Chairman Ray Chase has led the Board through extensive research of existing programs, prayer, planning and legal consultation. A pilot program was conducted in 2009 with four compatible male residents in a neighborhood where they earned their welcome by baking and delivering cookies and offering to shovel snow. This temporary transitional house proved so successful that it was decided to proceed with plans to make “Washington House” the first permanent home and the pilot program participants its first permanent residents.

The four bedroom home was reconfigured to give each of the four residents a private room and accommodations for the resident Community Builder who helps the residents grow into a family, conduct bible devotions, and stay with them during the nights. Additional bathrooms and an enlarged eating area completed the remodel. Though intended as a permanent home, the Board is well aware that this first house is still part of a transition and expects it to serve as a model to help SFS prepare for future homes.

Carol Casey, who has been a much loved volunteer with the STARS for twenty-five years, has been designated as the Life Skills Supervisor. She recruits and supervises tutors and volunteers and coordinates the schedules and activities of the residents, families and volunteers—no small task!

While delighted that the first home is becoming a reality, there is a realistic awareness of the overwhelming need for additional residences for this ministry. In fact, the Board has already identified thirty-nine STARS who will need housing immediately or within the next five years. Even as many people prayed for God's provision for another home, God graciously answered these prayers when SFS recently received confirmation of a generous grant from a foundation which will enable it to begin planning a second, and maybe even a third, home.

STARS Family Services counts on a number of sources which give the church body, STARS parents, and others an opportunity to support this God-honoring ministry. The STARS Resale Shop provides faithful support as does a portion of the proceeds from Run for the STARS. Last February, the "Little Patch of Heaven" benefit concert helped raise funds and was such a delightful evening that Todd Busteed and the Musical Moms agreed to an encore performance on February 12th. Individual donations are also greatly appreciated.

There are definitely more changes ahead as SFS seeks to provide more permanent residences for more of the STARS. The challenge of seeking funding, writing grant proposals and enlisting volunteers are all being undertaken with the conviction that even though SFS may be reaching for the STARS, we may be sure that, "God's work, done God's way, will never lack God's supply."