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. 



During the week of November 9th GTL asked people to take up the call to donate much needed supplies and equipment for our classes, and they delivered! A very big thanks to the following individuals for their donations:

Mrs. Bobbi Dougherty – 2 Dirt Devil Power Duo vacuum cleaners, eating utensils
Mr. and Mrs. Lesch - vacuum cleaner, electric knife, sports equipment
Mr. and Mrs. Mindo - kitchen essentials
Mrs. Karen Dailey - kitchen essentials
Mr. and Mrs. Walkuska - food processor
Mr. and Mrs. Pachut – All-metal stand mixer, towels
Mr. and Mrs. Katz - checkers and chess games Ms. Sandy Eden – 7 large boxes of arts and crafts supplies Mrs. Lenora Sombright - kitchen essentials
Mr. and Mrs. Vasic – coffee pot, pots and pans, dishes
Mr. and Mrs. Pytel - measuring spoons, bowls, towels
Mrs. Elaine Gruber – All-Metal stand mixer Ms. Bobbie Dunbar - $25 donation

It is with great sadness that we share with you that long-time Gateway instructor and Executive Director, Cheryl Hennelly, passed away on Monday, December 18, 2017. She dedicated her life's work to the children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families that graced the hallways of Gateway. She treated each participant as if they were they were her own child instilling them with love, confidence, and responsibility. She was respected and trusted by every family that sent their loved one to Gateway.

Cheryl is irreplaceable but we will honor her legacy of passion and dedication by continuing to provide the highest level of training and services possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband, two children, her family and all those that she touched. 


Cheryl L. "Cheri" Hennelly (nee Oberg) - beloved wife of Gerry; loving mother of Samantha and Patrick; fond daughter of Patricia (nee Benanti) (Tony) Hack and the late Roy (Barbara) Oberg; dear sister of Linda (Kevin) Hand and the late William, Mark and Christine Oberg; loving aunt and friend of many. Memorial visitation at Cooney Funeral Home 625 Busse Hwy Park Ridge on Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Service at 5 p.m. Interment private. In lieu of flowers donations to Gateway to Learning ( 4925 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago) would be appreciated. Info 847-685-1002





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. 


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 >>>


Selecting Gateway to Learning Chicago as your charity will help us each time you purchase something at!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Charity Gift Cards from CharityChoice – give just like a commercial gift card.
Turn your gift-giving into philanthropy. 100% tax deductible gifts, plastic and eCards.

Featured Charity – Gateway to Learning Special Education and Training Center:
CharityChoice Gift Cards will benefit Gateway to Learning Special Education and Training Center
and the charities your gift-recipient designate as well.

 Perfect for birthday, business, holiday, sympathy, wedding - a unique gift idea!