Restoration Project logo'... so many lives in recovery.'

Just over the Arlington border, the nonprofit Restoration Project works with adolescents and adults with emotional and neurological challenges who restore themselves while restoring furniture and finding boosts in confidence as they learn retailing.

"Our participants trust us with their hopes and dreams," said its founder and director, Eloise Newell. "We're grateful to be part of so many lives in recovery."

The grass-roots vocational-rehabilitation program at 334 Pleasant St., in Belmont, operates on the assumption that recovery is possible. Individuals with mental illnesses and brain injuries are valued for their strengths and potential. A creative endeavor in a congenial atmosphere, individually chosen and self-paced, challenges and nurtures their abilities.

Newell says the process builds confidence, perseverance and a set of work skills that are transferable to new situations. The program has helped more than 300 participants return to the world of work, 70 percent of whom remain employed long term.

The effort moved from West Concord last year, aiming to reach more participants and to offer another road to rehabilitation -- a retail thrift store where clients can get ready for competitive employment.

The store -- stocked with antique furniture, stemware, fashion and jewelry -- shares the ground floor with the busy restoration workshop. Staff offices include an employment specialist. In the basement, 3,000 feet of storage holds furniture awaiting restoration and merchandise for resale.

The Restoration Project can serve 16 participants in the furniture programs and another four in the store. Each participant comes in two days a week. Right now, 11 are on board, so there is room for more.

The nonprofit has three vocational programs -- furniture finishing and upholstering as well as the store. All are used to prepare participants for competitive employment in their chosen careers.

Those involved are adolescents and adults with mental illnesses and brain injuries. There are no classes for the general public, though those in charge are always looking for volunteers to work in any of these three programs.

"We also need volunteer woodworkers to repair broken furniture," Newell said.

The support of the community is an integral part of the recovery process. With the opportunity for work and engagement, individuals with mental illnesses and brain injuries can return to lives that are satisfying, hopeful and contributing.

The goal of rehabilitation is reintegration. People of all disabilities are beneficial to one another and to the community.

The Restoration Project began in 1992 as a mother's effort to employ one mentally ill son. He believed work was all he needed to recover; she was a teacher who had seen adults return to school to restart their lives and knew woodworking was a rewarding avocation. Within four months, with the encouragement of his Mass. Rehabilitation Commission counselor, Restoration Project was incorporated and members of the local Department of Mental Health clubhouse were coming by van to work in their home shop. 


334 Pleasant St., Belmont, MA 02478
Program hours: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Store hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.


Winner of the Lilly Reintegration Award for Occupational Therapy, Restoration Project remains an independent, single-service program -- serving a total of more that 300 since it began.

Participants apprentice in a traditional furniture finishing and upholstering shop to develop confidence and transferable work skills. Also provided are tests in interest and aptitude, career counseling, job-search assistance and job coaching to help participants find and keep employment.

Its mission is "to restore neurologically impaired individuals to self-sustaining lives by offering them remedial transitional employment and facilitating their return to the community."

Furniture is especially suited to these goals because it is part of our everyday lives; the work feels meaningful and participants identify with the results. The training methods are based on education and therapy models -- adult education, Montessori and cognitive behavior -- that improve cognitive functioning, counteract the deficits caused by neurological disorders and facilitate recovery.

In addition, the Restoration Project points to these as factors in reaching rehabilitative success:

• An apprentice relationship with mentor craftsmen

• A peaceful, congenial and supportive environment

• Therapy animals in the shop

• A skilled craft that improves concentration, work tolerance and self-confidence

• An emphasis on using both hands to strengthen the connection between the brain’s left and right hemispheres with the potential of improving tasks that require the connection, such as reading and analytical thinking

• A paycheck that provides incentive, feedback and a source of pride

This news summary was published Friday, March 16, 2018.