CLC Network Nurtures Inclusive Communities Far and Wide

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

CLC Network235Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski became executive director of CLC Network in September of this year. She previously served in fundraising, visitor and membership services at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.There was a time when it was considered a radical idea for churches and schools to open wide their arms to people with disabilities. Credit ministries like the CLC Network for helping to nurture the conviction people with physical and mental impairments also possess gifts important to schools and churches far and wide.

Since 1979, the Wyoming-based consulting organization, also known as the Christian Learning Center, has come alongside Christian and Catholic Schools and churches to show them how to nurture inclusive communities.

 "We got a vision of what inclusion could be," said Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, who became CLC Network’s executive director in September following the board of directors’ unanimous vote in May. “I feel so called to this position. The skills I have and the colleagues CLC has can help expand inclusiveness across the country.”

First person vision

The first-person vision Lucas Dombrowski experienced pertains to her sister, Andrea, who was born with Down syndrome and enrolled as a CLC Network student back when it was a school within a school at the now-shuttered Seymour Christian School in Alger Heights. Andrea passed away when she was seven years old in 1985.

That experience served as a continued connection for Lucas Dombrowski with CLC Network, which was founded by a group of parents in 1979. Her mother also served as president of the board in the late 1980s.

Today, the $1.25 million nonprofit with a 24-member staff serves an average of 67 Christian and Catholic schools in eight states and more than 3,000 churches across North America. On the horizon is the development of regional hubs.

“For now, we do a lot of traveling,” Lucas Dombrowski said.

Core values

CLC Network’s core values include: every person reflects God’s image; every person has been placed in this world for a purpose; every person deserves our best; and every partnership is valuable.

For schools, CLC Network’s services include comprehensive site studies; best-practice educational consulting; student psychological evaluations; teacher training and professional development; books and DVDs on disability and inclusion; and online courses for students with academic talents.

Churches can receive leader and volunteer training; adult education workshops; and free inclusion training materials.

Sometimes that training may include what not to say to children.

“For example, with children who are autistic, you do not want to use the words, ‘give your heart to Jesus,’ because that may scare them because they take that literally,” Lucas Dombrowski said.

Families also may choose for their children individual psychological evaluations; teacher-directed online courses for students with academic talents and books and DVDs on disability and inclusion.

Recent workshops and webinars posted on CLC Network’s Facebook wall include restorative practices in schools, ADD/ADHD and Your Child and inclusive worship symposium. CLC Network also has a satellite office at City of Hope in Zeeland.

We’re about community

Lucas Dombrowski said the ministry does not approach its clients with a cookie-cutter mentality.

“We bring a framework and a conversation,” she said. “We don’t bring a program.We’re about community and belonging. The vision of the Kingdom is honoring every person made in God’s image with gifts to contribute. We’re a ministry of reconciliation for kids who feel misunderstood, of helping us all appreciate the gifts that every person brings.”


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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