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Doodlebug Workshop helps suburban Chicago kids with special needs one tool at a time

Suburban Chicago special needs kids learn life skills at the Doodlebug Workshop
Suburban Chicago special needs kids learn life skills at the Doodlebug Workshop 02:03

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A program to help people with special needs gain vocational skills is growing in Wheaton.

It's called the Doodlebug Workshop.

Sarah Starke started the program by using her son and his nickname as inspiration when Alex was about to age out of the school system.

It's a situation many parents of kids with special needs find themselves in this time of year.  

Sanding, drilling, and hammering are all parts of the woodworking vocational program at Doodlebug Workshop. Starke knew nothing about when she started in 2017.

"There was a learning curve," she said. "It's really kind of cool. It's impressive that we had this idea and turned it into a Main Street initiative. It's just been really amazing."

They have about a dozen people in the vocational program working side-by-side with instructors.

And 345 people, ages 16 to 64, took part in their day program last year, coming in groups to learn the basics.

Their wares go for sale in the front store room.

"Basically, I like it when you put the handles on," said Dana Strubing, a vocational program participant. 

Using the sales to offset costs for their nonprofit.

Doodlebug Workshop is expanding and opening an online store in the next month or so, meaning participants here will also start to pick up e-commerce skills.

"There is pride in that. And you talk to customers. And they tell them how they made it and what went into making the project. That's fun to watch," Starke said. 

As Starke learned, you can change lives one tool at a time.

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