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Make A Big Difference In Someone’s Life: Volunteer at Spark!

Jun 20, 2018 02:10PM ● By Linda Ditch

Photo courtesy of Spark! Community Center

John Fenley is the perfect example of someone who doesn’t let problems stop him from getting things done. He was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor at three years old and went through four surgeries to remove it. The resulting brain injury created difficulties, including leaving him legally blind and having memory problems.

But that hasn’t stopped John. He is a passionate advocate for disability rights, including serving as president of UNITE and People First of New Hampshire. He was appointed to the Council on Developmental Disabilities in 2012 by then-Governor John Lynch. He also joined the Self-Advocacy Leadership Team (SALT) in 2013.

John, with parent-advocate Lisa Green, came up with the idea for Spark! Community Center, Inc. , which opened four years ago in Lebanon. He started to see the need for such a place after talking with friends and realizing their activities for the day included a walk around Walmart or watching planes at the Lebanon Airport.

“It felt like everyone’s potential is being wasted,” said John in a video on the center’s website. “I have a lot of passions myself. I like cartooning, so I have things to do to occupy my time at home. Some of these people haven’t explored their hidden talents, or their spark... The reason I wanted create this center is because there is such a need for a place for people with disabilities to feel that people care that they are living up to their full potential.”

Spark! offers a variety of fun and educational programs, classes, and events for people with special needs. They also have support groups for families and caring members of the community. Plus, through the center, participants can get discounts for area entertainment and recreation venues.

Many disabled people have limited incomes and access to transportation. With Spark!, they have a one-stop place to explore all kinds of interests. Located at 75 Bank Street on the lower level of a former junior high school, the center has plenty for people to do even if they don’t want to participate in a class or activity. There are movies, video games, a computer lab, Foosball, a pool table, and arts and crafts supplies to use.

Classes are offered in cooking, crafts, music, art, and games (UNO, cards, Yahtzee, and Wii). The SOAR Self-Advocacy Group meets there every other week, and there’s a special evening event each Friday, such as movie or comedy night, with a meal included.

Spark! needs volunteers. The center’s website says, “We are looking for fun, creative, and enthusiastic volunteers who are passionate about helping adults with special needs reach their goals and maximize their full potential while enhancing their social inclusion and integration into the community. You can make a big difference in someone’s life! You can be the key to lighting someone’s spark!”

To find out more about volunteering at Spark! Community Center or their programs and events, go to


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