Center tracks Lambs Farm’s rich history
Green Oaks Thursday, 7/19/12 Resident, Janice Small, and President and CEO, Dianne Yaconetti at the new visitors center at Lambs Farm. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 24, 2012 1:29AM
GREEN OAKS — More than 50 years after its inception, the rich history of Lambs Farm is now on public display.
The non-profit organization that serves people with development disabilities recently opened a new Visitors Center on its Green Oaks campus. The Visitors Center provides a pictorial timeline of the history of Lambs Farm, dating from its modest beginnings as a pet shop in Chicago in 1961 up through the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration last year.
“Really, this has been a long time coming and to do this in conjunction with the 50th anniversary makes it that much more special,” said Dianne Yaconetti, president and CEO of Lambs Farm.
The museum-like Visitors Center features photographs, displays, historical accounts and proclamations of the history of Lambs Farm dating back to the organization’s inception. Four floor-to-ceiling banners give brief biographies of Lambs Farm founders Bob Terese and Corrine Owen, who opened a small pet store on Chicago’s State Street in 1961 that employed 12 men and women with developmental disabilities.
“It was the first non-sheltered business to employ people with developmental disabilities in the United States,” said Yaconetti.
In 1965, Terese and Owen, with the help of philanthropist W. Clement Stone, purchased the 70-acre site in Green Oaks near I-94 and Route 176, where Lambs Farm sits today. The site eventually developed, adding several businesses, including a farmyard with carousel, petting zoo, a country store and bakery, and restaurant and thrift shop, all of which employ people with developmental disabilities. Over the years, Lambs Farm also added a residential component for many of the people who work on the farm.
Photographs and memorabilia displayed in the Visitors Center came from the Lambs Farm archives. Many of the photos and stories are featured in a book written by journalist Rich Kogan for the 50th anniversary of Lambs Farm last year. The pictures include a photograph of former First Lady Betty Ford, when the first dorm building for residents was dedicated on the campus in 1976.
“We tried to come up with a way to tell a little bit about our mission in a meaningful way,” said Yaconetti. “That’s why our history and Visitors Center is so important. It gives people a better understanding of the breadth and scope of our mission and what we do.”
Lambs Farm opened the Visitors Center on May 8 during a grand opening event attended by donors, staff, board members and volunteers. Since then, the center has been open to the general public as well as for tours by corporate groups, school groups and field trips.
Last week, staff from the North Suburban YMCA in Northbrook led a camp tour of about 30 children through the Visitors Center during a field trip to Lambs Farm.
“I had no idea about any of this before I came here,” said Kathy Jahn of Buffalo Grove, who works for the North Suburban YMCA. “This is an amazing place. I had no idea of all the things they do to help people with developmental disabilities.”
YMCA camp counselor Megan Poreda said she also found the tour to be “very informative.”
“I never knew this was here, let alone all of what they offer to people (with developmental disabilities),” she said.
Janice Small, one of the original 12 employees of the Lambs Farm pet shop in Chicago, has lived and worked at Lambs Farm in Green Oaks for more than 30 years. She now greets guests who come to the Visitors Center.
“It’s nice,” she said. “You meet great people. You tell people stories and tell them everything that we do.”
The Visitors Center is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.lambsfarm.org.