Trackside expands its scope by leasing space to Abilis

The long-term goal of the Trackside Teen Center to become financially self-sufficient took a positive turn on Oct. 12 when Abilis, the nonprofit organization that provides services and support for individuals with special needs and their families, opened its job skills training center there.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice cut a ribbon to ceremoniously welcome Abilis, based in Greenwich with a satellite in Westport, to town.

Abilis could have gone anywhere in Fairfield County, but it chose Wilton because Trackside is in the town center and is geographically situated to draw from the markets of Ridgefield, New Canaan, Newtown, and possibly Darien, said Dennis Perry, chief executive officer and president of Abilis Life Skills.

“It’s also a comfortable place for us,” he said, during an interview in one of the teen center’s plushy relaxation rooms.

The ample space is much appreciated.

“The Trackside is going to be good, I can feel it in my heart. I am going with my intuition,” said Dina Walsh, one of the first parents to enroll her adult child in the program.

Walsh, of Newtown, has a 24-year-old son, Nicholas, who lives in a group home in Norwalk and will be attending Abilis during the day at Trackside.

He’ll learn job skills like working in the kitchen and serving in the cafe.

There are three clients enrolled so far. They will also visit workplaces in the area, to get a taste of different jobs they may want to apply for in the future.

The special needs individuals receive federal and state support, but they would like to earn a paycheck on their own if they can for the self-esteem, Perry said.

“The ultimate goal is to get them a job,” said Perry. “That doesn’t happen for everyone, but even for those who don’t, they walk away with life skills they didn’t have before.”

The Abilis lease at Trackside is the first of what Trackside Executive Director Mark Ketley hopes will be a series of partnerships.

“We’re a community center, and this is good for the community,” Ketley said.

There will be another partnerships announced in the future, he said.

“For us it’s the right thing to do, and we have the space,” Ketley said.

Trackside is a spacious building with furnished relaxation rooms as well as a cafe with a kitchen, and a rock theater that packs 300 people, complete with a full-sized performance stage.

It is next to the town center train station, which is why it is called Trackside.