Hollister Construction Services to Build LifeTown in Livingston

Parsippany-based Hollister Construction Services, a full-service construction manager specializing in corporate, educational, healthcare, industrial, retail and residential construction, announces that it will serve as construction manager for LifeTown, a dynamic new facility in Livingston, that will provide social, therapeutic, recreational and educational programs to youths with special needs.

The 47,000-square-foot, $14-million project, slated for completion in winter 2015, will transform a former warehouse into an inclusive center. LifeTown will offer a variety of educational and therapeutic experiences, from a sand room for tactile therapy to mock retail stores for instruction on self-reliance within society. The center will also enable all children and teens to learn social and life skills in a safe and controlled environment.

One of just a few such facilities in the nation, LifeTown can be compared to a backlot movie studio, specially designed for first-hand, educational experiences. At the center of the building is Life Village, an extremely detailed mockup of a town square where individuals with special needs can practice vital life skills. Life Village will house functioning storefronts including a bank, florist, food and book stores, a salon, pet shop, health-care facility, café and movie theater. It will even include street crossings, a traffic light and sidewalks.

All elements of LifeTown have been designed to accommodate individuals with special needs. The gym, for instance, will be constructed to reduce noise, which can cause confusion and agitation for those with autism. The pool has a beach entry to provide easy access, and will help to promote coordination, motor development and fitness. A water room will offer fun and therapeutic-sensory interaction with water, and the “Snoezelen Room” will offer a soothing and calming space.

“Hollister is honored to help create such a unique facility, especially one that will benefit so many children in our region,” said Jon Schoenleber, project manager of Hollister Construction Services. “This is an extremely rewarding project that advances our ongoing commitment to support the community through our work.”

“The existing facility will undergo a complete gut rehab so that we can create the individual components of LifeTown in a dynamic and completely realistic setting,” said Lance Blake, designing architect with Rotwein & Blake Associates.

“LifeTown will provide inclusive socialization opportunities for all, and will allow individuals with special needs to live up to their potential by offering hands-on, life-skills training in a controlled and manageable environment,” said Zalman Grossbaum, executive director of Friendship Circle. “This dream is becoming a reality because of great partners like Hollister.”

From: New Jersey Business Magazine

Design for Autism


LifeTown Project in Livingston Will Serve as Teacher of Life Skills to Special-Needs Youth


LifeTown project in Livingston will serve as teacher of life skills to special-needs youth


Mitzvah Project: Giving to LifeTown

Ryan Warter celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in October, 2013. His family and many friends in his Livingston, New Jersey, community were actively involved in his amazing Mitzvah Project.

Ryan is part of The Friendship Circle which extends a helping hand to families who have children with autism and other special needs involving them in a full range of Jewish and social experiences. The Friendship Circle is building a new state-of-the-art community center for children with special needs called Life Town.

Ryan (pictured left) has special needs and the Warter family wanted Ryan to experience all parts of becoming a Bar Mitzvah including having a Mitzvah Project just like other children, as well as “giving back” to others.

Since Ryan communicates in sign language, we spoke to Ryan’s parent’s mom Barbara, Dad Oren and his brothers Zach and Jake, regarding his Mitzvah Project.

MM: Can you give us details of Ryan’s Mitzvah Project?
The Warter Family
: Friends, family and professionals donated money in honor of Ryan’s Bar Mitzvah towards the construction of Life Town. Something in the center will be named in honor of Ryan’s project. We formed Ryan’s Team and participated in the Friendship Circle Walk on October 21, 2013, to raise awareness and support for the organization and center. I, (Mom Barbara), was asked to present the opening speech to kick-off the walk and draw attention to the new building and project. It was an incredible time and a huge honor for our family.

Ryan’s Team during the Friendship Circle Walk

Ryan’s Team during the Friendship Circle Walk

MM: Does Ryan’s project have a start and end date?
The Warter Family: No, while the Bar Mitzvah is over, the project is ongoing through August 2014. We have raised $12,574.00 so far!

MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project/charity?
The Warter Family: We took on this project as a family, to honor Ryan, and support an incredible organization and venture that will provide support to our community for years to come. Thirteen years ago Ryan was born with a rare syndrome known as CHARGE Syndrome.  Children with CHARGE suffer from a variety of significant medical as well as developmental challenges.  Despite their challenges, these are some of the most amazing and determined children. Ryan is no exception. He is one of the strongest, funniest and most loveable children you will ever meet.

MM: What does it mean for your family to be involved in Ryan’s Mitzvah Project?
The Warter Family:
When we first heard about a new community center it was Zachary, one of Ryan’s younger brothers, who came up with the idea to try and raise money for the cause. Life Town, really is a state-of-the-art center and the amazing people from the Friendship Circle continue to work hard to meet the needs for children of all abilities.

Pictured L-R: Brothers Zach, Ryan and Jake

Brothers Zach, Ryan and Jake

Brother Jake, age 5:
“My brother Ryan has special needs and he goes to the Friendship Circle. They help Ryan make new friends, have play dates and play soccer. I want to help Life Town for Ryan’s Bar Mitzvah because I know Ryan would LOVE the movie theater and pet store. (Ryan loves going to movies and he really, really loves animals). We could all go together and play there and meet other kids with special needs and their brothers too. I can’t wait till it opens!”

Brother Zach, age 10:
“We want to raise money to help build Life Town. Life Town is a community center that is being built right here in Livingston to help kids with special needs learn skills that they can’t always learn in the real world. They will have everything from music and dance studios to real stores and even a bowling alley! The people from the Friendship Circle have really helped a lot of kids with special needs. This new center will be a great way to help even more kids and families too. I have been able to volunteer for the Friendship Circle and am so excited for this center so I can help more and Ryan can do more things with his new friends too.”

Ryan (age 13):
“I feel excited to go to the movies, bowling, dancing, swimming and play basketball. I want to work at the pet store with dogs and cats.”

MM: If it involves a donation, what are you doing to spread the word?
The Warter Family:
Visit our Website at www.wecare.fcnj.org/?/ryanbarmitzvah to learn about Ryan, our project and the center.

MM: How long can people donate to this charity?
The Warter Family:
Life Town is still raising funds and Ryan’s personal donation site will remain open until building begins in August 2014.  Any money raised in Ryan’s name will go towards a dedication to Ryan at the new building. People can always donate money or time to the Friendship Circle in Livingston, New Jersey.

We thank Ryan and his family for sharing his wonderful Bar Mitzvah project with our readers. Look for Ryan’s Bar Mitzvah family spotlight story soon.

From: Mitzvah Market

Susanne Newark Honored at Friendship Circle Annual Banquet


Regal Bank Honored at Friendship Circle Banquet