Meet our Staff – Rita

Meet Friedman Place Director of Operations: Rita

Rita helps landscape the grounds of Friedman Place with volunteers and staff.

Talk about covering a lot of ground. Rita worked with staff and volunteers installing the wonderful landscaping that beautifies the outside of Friedman Place.

Rita Scaletta has been Friedman Place’s Director of Finance and Operations for about 14 years now. Her four main areas of responsibility include making sure the building is in good physical shape, overseeing housekeeping, dining services and ensuring that the organization’s finances are correct.

The native Chicagoan possesses an unusual strong work ethic and love for the residents she serves. Full of energy, always positive, Rita is ready to pitch in wherever and whenever she is needed. “I don’t have a typical work day,” she said. “In order to make sure the needs of residents are met, I cover a lot of ground.” Rita would never say so herself, but her management contributes directly to Friedman Place earning perfect scores on the Annual State Review for three years in a row now!

One moment, Rita might call a repair person if a kitchen appliance in the dining hall isn’t working properly. Another time, she might be interacting with someone from housekeeping. At certain times of the year, she puts on her accounting cap (an Accounting degree from Loyola University prepared her for this task) to review Friedman Place’s finances and work with an outside auditing firm.

Rita is proud of her work ethic which she learned while in the Accounting Department at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. “At Lettuce Entertain You, employees were trained initially by rotating each week through various departments and performing various jobs such as food preparation,” she said. She has applied this same hands-on approach when she came to Friedman Place and has continued it ever since.

Her biggest challenge, she believes, is to make sure the individual voice of each resident is heard when a situation needs to be resolved or a problem anticipated before it inconveniences a resident. This is her way to insure the highest standards of Friedman Place are maintained. Furthermore, she loves spending time with residents, taking one of them out for coffee, for example, or participating in the numerous activities such as playing Uno.  It’s a marvelous way for Rita to become familiar with residents, learning about their backgrounds, perspectives and desires.

Rita was born and raised as a Cubs fan.  Outside of being a great mom to her kids, one of her very best and unforgettable moments was to actually be at Wrigley Field during the World Series and watching her Cubbies take the Series.  She also loves attending rock concerts and most recently saw the “well-aged” Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field.  Rita’s daughters inherited her love concerts and when they were too young to see Britney Spears on their own Rita chaperoned them through a very energetic crowd! Her daughters are turning out to be chips off the old block too in other ways.  Together with Rita as a partner; they have opened a pet care service offering a host of services for just about any kind of pets.

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Friedman Place Works to Achieve Mushen Silver Certification


Friedman Place is proudly working towards a Silver Certification from MUHSEN for providing a friendly environment for people who are blind and their families. Muhsen (Muslims Understanding and Helping Special Education Needs) is a nonprofit umbrella organization that serves the Muslim community to establish a more inclusive “Special Needs Friendly” environment for our Brothers and Sisters living with disabilities. Muhsen will advocate, train, and implement programs and services nationwide to improve access to Masajid for individuals with special needs as well as acceptance and inclusion by the community in all aspects. Please also see their Needs Assessment



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First Annual Holiday Giving Tree

Tis’ the Season Help Make the Holidays Bright for an Adult who is Blind or Visually Impaired

residents around the Christmas tree

Friedman Place announces its first annual Giving Tree for its 85 adult residents who are blind or visually impaired. All residents are either in poverty or have very low income and most residents have, on average, 5 health concerns other than blindness. Your gift would mean so much to them at this time of year.

Friedman Place staff and social work interns have asked residents for a gift ideas and most items cost $25 or less such as: pajamas, sweaters, blankets, slippers or gift cards to stores like Walmart or Target.  These everyday items are small luxuries that they cannot afford to buy for themselves.

Gift tags with the residents’ wishes will be hung on a tree in the Friedman Place lobby beginning on Wednesday, November 15th. You may stop by any day of the week: Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., or on Saturdays or Sundays from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. We ask that you please return the purchased items wrapped and with the tag attached by Monday, December 10, 2018. If you are unable to come in or would just like to sponsor a gift, call Kathy Gregg at 773-989-9800 to arrange. We will have a gift exchange shortly thereafter. For many this may be their only gift.  We hope you will help make this holiday special for one of our residents.



If you or your group would like to learn more about making a Giving Tree donation please contact:

Kathy Gregg 773-989-9800,

If you or your group would like to help organize or participate in the gift exchange please contact:

Beth Elman @ 773-989-9800 or

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Lighthouses on The Mag Mile

Are you looking for a fun, free way to spend an afternoon viewing art while learning about people with disabilities in Chicago?

Friedman Place is participating in “Lighthouses on The Mag Mile,” a citywide free public art exhibition celebrating the call to action for access and inclusion for people with disabilities.  This fabulous exhibition can be found along Chicago’s famous North Michigan Avenue, from June 19, through August 11. This world class event features 51 six-foot lighthouse sculptures, created by national and local Chicago artists, many with disabilities.

Our Woven LighthouseFriedman Place’s contribution: “Our Woven Lighthouse” was created in our weaving studio. It involved taking a 40+ foot piece of fabric, woven collaboratively on a community loom by weavers who are blind and disabled, and wrapping it around the structure. The various sections of the weaving are made of different types of threads and yarn – some very find and smooth, others thick and rough. It provides a ranging and varied textural experience to the person viewing and touching the completed lighthouse. The colors too vary by section, some being muted while others are quite bright. This piece has been selected in part because it shows weavers of various skill levels responding to pattern, texture and color, jointly creating an ultimate expression of their collaborative work. The final ” woven lighthouse” is a beautiful, visually arresting, experiential beacon for access and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Lighthouse close upFriedman Place’s weavers represent a unique point of view. Our Therapeutic Weaving Program functions as a creative outlet for individuals who are living with a disability or multiple disabilities, blindness being the common factor. Our weavers are always eager to present their work and share with others what they can accomplish when the all-too-common barriers to inclusion are lowered. The opportunity to have their collaboratively created artwork displayed to so many thousands of people through a public display of this type is extremely empowering, compelling and validating.

The agency’s Therapeutic Weaving Program is part of the David Herman Learning Center, which honors the legacy of lifelong learner, David Herman, a 25-year Agency resident who was blind and deaf since early childhood. Friedman Place residents are empowered through the center to pursue learning opportunities and technology skills to their greatest desire and capacity. The Therapeutic Weaving Program – located at Friedman Place – provides residents an opportunity to create original, one-of-a-kind weavings and in the process enhance the individual’s senses of self-efficacy and worth as well as general learning and socialization, as most weaving is done individually but in a group setting. All aspects of the program are educational and facilitate learning to the resident’s greatest desire and capacity.

Friedman Place’s lighthouse is sponsored by Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan.

You can find “Our Woven Lighthouse” at

430 North Michigan Avenue/Plaza of America.


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Summertime is a wonderful time to Volunteer at Friedman Place!

Friedman Place offers a wide variety of activities and outings for our residents all year round, but Summer is always busiest as there are so many opportunities for outdoor fun! In addition to our daily activities and special guests or performers inside our building we take residents to many destinations in the Chicago area. Volunteers are almost always needed to accompany residents and help them navigate their destination.

Our first trip of the Summer was one of our most popular – Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. A group of staff, residents and volunteers spent the day on easy rides like the Carousel to some of the scariest of roller coasters. They all returned with big smiles on their faces!

We have several other adventures planned for this Summer and more may be added to the calendar for late July and August.  You can always check with our Activities and Volunteers Department directly to find out if anything has been added. Call Beth Elman at 773-409-6123 or email, for more information.

Wendella Boat Tour Group 2017

Here are some confirmed Outings for Summer 2018:

  • Tuesday, July 10 – SeaDog (speed boat) & Pepsi Swings at Navy Pier
  • Friday, July 20 – Big Bus Tour
  • Thursday, August 9 – Wendella Boat Architectural Tour
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Dining in the Dark Experience

On Sunday, June 3, Friedman Place held our first Dining in the Dark Experience Event. Over 50 guests had the unique experience of being blindfolded and led into our Dining Room by sighted guides. Once situated at their tables, the blindfolds were removed to reveal total darkness. Once some tips for eating in the dark were provided by our Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist – Judith Querciagrossa, our guests enjoyed (or at least tried to enjoy!) a vegetarian meal complete with soup, salad and wine!

As the meal ended, two of our employees – both of whom live with blindness – shared their stories of losing their vision, how they adapted and how they are doing currently.  Allen West – our computer instructor – spoke of losing his sight as a young child and his fearlessness; while Jeff Flodin – one of our social workers – talked about all of the emotions and adaptations he experienced as he lost his vision in his 30’s and 40’s. Their experiences are very different, but they also have a lot in common, each lives independently, they both have guide dogs and they both work at Friedman Place! They happily answered questions from the audience at the end of their presentation.

Once the presentations ended, our Executive Director – Alexander Brown, answered additional questions and then lit a candle to slowly bring some light into the Dining Room. More candles appeared and dessert was served while guests mingled with each other as the event came to an end. As people left, staff heard many positive reactions from our guests, we look forward to hosting another similar event in the future.

To learn more about upcoming events, please visit our Upcoming and Recent Events page.
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Meet Susie

Susie was born in 1974, at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. She was premature and weighed just two and one-half pounds. As part of her treatment, she was placed in an incubator and, unfortunately, the high levels of oxygen damaged her eyes, resulting in blindness. This was not an uncommon experience in earlier decades, it became far less common by the 1970’s and is very rare today. Known as “A Miracle Baby”, she stayed in the hospital for 80 days! Susie’s parents and family provided a loving environment and supported her in every way. At the age of three (3), she learned to feel different textures and worked hard to read Braille (which she fully mastered by adolescence!). Later she attended a special school program at Skinner and Farnsworth Elementary Schools in Chicago.

For high school, she enrolled at Carl Schurz High School where she was an excellent student and graduated in 1993. She then enrolled at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education, where she was a very persistent, tenacious student and furthered her adaptive skills so she could be as independent as possible. She attended other training programs for persons who are blind and worked for some time packaging home-care products and doing clerical work.

Susie really wanted to help others and become a volunteer tutor, so she participated in several programs for persons who are blind and taught several subjects, including: Braille, arithmetic, spelling, basic typing on the and Word Perfect 5.1.

Susie is a woman of many talents and interests. She writes poetry and is a fan of music. She most enjoys attending concerts and is a loyal fan to many favorite performers, but her favorite is Joan Jett. She wrote a beautiful poem about Joan Jett and has been to many of her concerts. As she expressed herself, “I started going to Joan Jett’s concerts in May of 1998.  I’ve been to eleven (11) of her concerts and this year was my 12th. Soon, I’ll be going to my 13th concert. I got a chance to give Joan Jett a hug and take pictures and to tell her I’ve been her fan since as was seven (7) and she is awesome!”

Resident with flowers

She was introduced to Friedman Place as a volunteer and became a model volunteer – she was extremely impressed by the high quality, committed staff and community members.   Shortly after she began volunteering at Friedman Place, her volunteer position came to end, leaving her isolated at home.  She valued her independence and did not want to burden family members for rides or entertainment.  Additionally, she wanted to be sure she had a place to live as her parents aged, so she initiated the process to join the community at Friedman Place. She recalled her excitement when she finally became a resident, as she reflects: “I was so happy on that fateful day of June 27, 2011. I became an official resident at Friedman Place. I want to stay here for life!”

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