An Artist in Residence – Del’s Donka Story
Delizia DeBella, Del, visits art exhibits, explores the culinary world, and visits friends and family – all from Donka’s computer training lab located in the DuPage Care Center (DPCC) in Wheaton. For 17 years, Dell has been residing at DPCC after the death of her husband and when symptoms from multiple sclerosis and severe osteoporosis made it dangerous for her to live alone.
“It was a wonderful thing to be able to get training from Donka!” said Del when talking about her time in the computer lab – which is open during weeknights and weekends to Donka’s graduates. “No one is refused admission and that is a rare thing,” she continues.
Donka is a 32-year old nonprofit organization established in January 1987 by Don Van Haveren, a retired DuPage-area technology executive who volunteered at DPCC and recognized that assistive technology (AT) computer training could help residents increase their independence financially and socially. Assistive technology includes specific types of equipment, hardware, or software programs that allow persons with a physical, visual, or learning disability to use a computer with independence.
Del, who received her bachelor’s degree in art education from the Art Institute of Chicago and her master’s degree from Rosary College, is a retired artist and illustrator. After returning from an art fellowship in Florence, Italy, Del initially taught art in the public-school system before forging a career in advertising. She held a coveted position as an illustrator for Marshall Fields’ advertising department for many years – breaking ground in a profession that was dominated by men. When she retired, she was working for a construction and design company, creating illustrations for blueprints and interior design models.
At 90 years old, Del is still breaking ground as a senior citizen using technology to stay connected to the world, despite limitations in her mobility. Del graduated from Donka’s AT training program in 2012 and visits the computer training lab frequently during open hours to purse her interests and catch up with friends and family. Del is proficient in Microsoft Word and Outlook and knows her way around the internet. Donka staffs the computer lab with trained volunteers during open hours to assist graduates who might encounter challenges with software or equipment.
“I like to catch up on what’s happening with art exhibits, check out the latest news, and I do Pinterest,” Del states. And I really like to check out the food sites and find good recipes – which I sometimes share with the kitchen staff here [DPCC].”
Donka trains individuals with disabilities of all ages to use a computer on their own so that they can get jobs, study and attend school, or connect with friends and family using a computer or tablet device, such as an iPad. The organization’s overarching goal is to increase community integration and socialization for its students via technology. Students receive one-on-one instruction from Microsoft-certified trainers and learn business applications, computer fundamentals, Internet and email, social and business networking sites, and job-readiness skills. with a personalized curriculum that allows them to gain skills to access opportunities and resources to achieve independence and improve the quality of their lives.
“I like being able to look up everything from “soup to nuts,” says Del. “I really encourage anyone who needs this training to get to Donka. I am grateful to them. Thank you!”
To learn more about Donka’s AT computer training programs for persons with disabilities—and workshops for the professionals who serve them—call us or visit our website: www.donkainc.org / 630-665-8169