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LIVINGSTON — ShopRite is partnering with LifeTown, an educational and recreational center in Livingston, N.J., where individuals with special needs practice daily life and job skills. LifeTown – slated to open in summer 2017 – will be an inclusive center where individuals with disabilities can work and play.

LifeTown’s Essex County, N.J., location will help thousands of New Jersey residents with special needs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the four-county region surrounding LifeTown (Essex, Morris, Passaic and Union), 19,206 children under the age of 18 have a disability, as do more than 100,000 adults between the ages of 18-65.

Currently under construction, the 53,000-square-foot LifeTown will provide social, recreational and educational activities for children, teens and young adults with special needs and their families.

The cornerstone of the project is the 11,000-square-foot “Life Village,” a working Main Street with a theater, bank, doctor’s office and shops, including a ShopRite supermarket. More than 6,500 students are expected to participate in the educational programs at Life Village each year, with 35,000 people participating in all the programs and services that LifeTown will offer.

“ShopRite is proud to partner with LifeTown to provide job and life training experience for young people in New Jersey,” said Neil Greenstein, a third-generation grocer who owns and operates the ShopRite of Newark and Brookdale ShopRite. “Our ShopRite stores are committed to the communities where our stores operate and we promote education in a variety of ways, including internships and partnerships with local schools and summer youth employment programs.”

Adds Greenstein: “The educational opportunities and programs LifeTown offers young people are in keeping with that commitment to the community, and we look forward to working with the organization to help create the Life Village experience.”

The ShopRite market will be incorporated into the educational curriculum at LifeTown. Using the cutting-edge ONEder educational technology, students will be prompted to complete shopping-related tasks that are tied to their personal IEP (Individualized Educational Program). Those tasks will build on skills students have learned in the classroom, allowing them to practice in Life Village’s real-world setting before taking their skills into the larger community.

Life-skills lessons at ShopRite at LifeTown will focus on money management, staying on task, choosing healthy fare, waiting on line and following a shopping list.

Young adults with special needs will also have the opportunity to learn how to stock store shelves, work a cash register, bag groceries and more as part of job-readiness training.

“It is an honor for us to welcome ShopRite as a partner in LifeTown,” says Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of LifeTown. “It is inspiring how ShopRite has always included individuals with special needs as employees, and how welcoming they are to customers of all abilities. The ShopRite store in LifeTown and our partnership will create learning opportunities to enhance so many lives. We look forward to working together.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 36 percent of adults with disabilities face the challenge of obesity. In an effort to change this reality, ShopRite and LifeTown’s partnership will also offer workshops and classes on the importance of healthy eating and how to make smart food choices.

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