There is a saying” Go big or go home”. Rachelle Vartanian, founder of Living and Learning Enrichment Center must have changed that saying to Go big and get a big home. And she did. That was where the club went to on our first outing in 2023. The new home of the Living and Learning Enrichment Center at the old Don Massy estate on 8 Mile and Griswold in Northville.
Many of us have dreams. Most of us forget the dreams when we open our eyes in the morning as we plan our busy days. Some dreams we ponder but dismiss them as being too audacious or frivolous to pursue. There is a rare breed of people who take their dreams as a calling or a quest and in their pursuit of those dreams they lose the words impossible, can’t, or won’t, and with an equal measure of inspiration and perspiration they begin to see their dreams form.
Rachelle Vartanian had the dream of creating a place where hundreds of autistic people, young and old, could meet, socialize, learn, and be creative in a fellowship of like-minded people where every day the menu included equal measures of love and kindness.
We assembled in the main house of the old Don Massey estate. We heard the history of the house about its past owners and Rachelle spoke about all the events, classes, and social activities that are now ongoing with the Living and Learning Enrichment Center. Rachelle then led us on a tour of the house. We saw the lovely and ornate wall treatments, spacious sleeping quarters and well-appointed rooms.
Next, we went on a tour of the grounds. It was like entering an enchanted playground. There were the alpacas, that were brought in for their gentleness around humans, and their wool which is gathered, shipped out to a business in Frankenmuth that turns the Alpaca wool into highly valued socks which are then sold to the public. The multi-acre grounds also include bunnies, a small miniature golf course, a lavender farm, a honey farm, and a veggie garden. There is a paved walkway opened to the public that circles the entire grounds. I personally want to return and walk the grounds more slowly because I am sure there was much that I missed,
As we ended our tour of this extraordinary facility, we received the best, last. As we were preparing to leave, we noticed the buses with autistic folks pulling up and we saw and felt the pure joy and a sense of belonging in their eyes and in their spirit. It was like they were returning home and the Living and Learning Enrichment Center was their home.