For three years, the Wilton Historical Society has welcomed participants from STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way by offering crafts, baking, and cooking classes for small groups of adults with disabilities. Served with a dash of history, the classes occurred at the museum complex on Danbury Road in Wilton. Led by museum educator Katherine Karlik, the participants eagerly anticipated their spring 2020 sessions until the pandemic challenged both non-profit organizations to scramble and invent a new way to continue the important relationship.
Now, instead of meeting a handful of participants in the 1860 Abbott Barn, Karlik leads over 40 participants in an activity via the “STARCAST” on Zoom. She engages with the class by offering project instruction, encouragement, praise, and some historical context. Recently, the group has been drawing farm animals and hearing about Colonial farms in Connecticut.
“We felt challenged to find a new way to offer programming for STAR that met their needs and kept to the high standards we have set for our educational programming,” Kim Mellin, co-director of the Wilton Historical Society, said. “It’s definitely a win-win situation and we are so pleased it is a success. During these times of anxiety and isolation, the Historical Society has been happy to lend a hand by donating the classes to STAR.”
“STAR is so grateful for the support of our community partners like Wilton Historical Society who are generously sharing their time, talent and expertise to provide Zoom classes to dozens of our neighbors who are impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Katie Banzhaf, executive director of STAR, added. “In addition to the wonderful content provided in these classes to enrich the lives of our participants, the feeling of inclusion, connectivity, and friendship prevails in such a sincere manner that is greatly appreciated.”
STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way is a not-for-profit organization established in 1952 to serve individuals of all ages who are impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Fairfield County (including Down syndrome and Autism), as well as providing support services to their families. STAR creates opportunities for individuals to live full lives with independence, freedom of choice, and personal growth by providing support, services, and advocacy. STAR informs and encourages the community to recognize and appreciate the value of all individuals. STAR is the only affiliated Fairfield County chapter of The Arc, an advocacy and informational agency benefitting people with intellectual disabilities on state and national levels.
The mission of the Wilton Historical Society (224 Danbury Rd.) is “Shining a light on the making and meaning of history through Wilton’s stories and historic preservation.” Founded in 1938, the organization offers a broad variety of insightful exhibits, programs and special events presented with historical accuracy and depth. Visitors to the Museum Complex can explore five 18th and 19th-century buildings, including a working blacksmith shop; a Colonial herb garden; the permanent exhibitions “Connecticut’s History, Wilton’s Story” and “Grandma’s Kitchen,” an interactive touch room; and changing exhibitions. Curriculum-based school field trips, lectures, workshops, and programs for all ages are offered. Special events include the American Artisan Show, the Great Holiday Train Show, and Objects of Desire: Style for the Garden and Home Show. The Historical Society has preserved 18 historic Wilton buildings, saving them from demolition and preserving the town’s historic landscape.