What: The Deutsch Institute has spent more than 40 years offering recreational and leisure opportunities for people with special needs from throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1979, the institute has gone from a one-room office in downtown Scranton to a major agency helping residents of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Now located at 825 Jefferson Ave. in Scranton, the Deutsch Institute offers numerous social and recreational programs that “enhance an individual’s holistic quality of life,” explained Managing Director Sean McHale.

The Deutsch Institute develops and expands these opportunities for people with “diverse-abilities” through programs such as social clubs, which meet twice per month and involve activities including bingo, crafts, conversation, dances, day trips, art therapy and much more. And through Verve Vertu Art Studio in Dallas, people with special needs can express themselves through different artistic mediums.

“Recreation is an effective way to improve health and well-being,” McHale said. “It can reduce stress, promote social skills, increase self-confidence and help maintain a healthy, active lifestyle by improving overall physical and mental health.”

Why: As with other community organizations, the coronavirus pandemic led to drastic changes in what the Deutsch Institute could offer, as in-person programs either stopped or were significantly altered, McHale said. The institute shifted to online offerings, keeping people connected over Zoom with activities including dances, Trivia Tuesday, Monday Connections, and photography and art classes. Financial support from the community helps the institute continue its mission “to provide unique leisure and recreational opportunities for individuals with ‘diverse-abilities,’” McHale said.

How: People can donate items for the institute’s various programs, such as art supplies and bingo prizes, as well as office supplies. To donate money, visit DeutschInstitute.org. The institute can be reached by phone at 570-348-1968 or 570-348-0891.

Additionally, the institute will participate in NEPA Gives, an online fundraising initiative running for 24 hours on Friday, June 4 (midnight to 11:59 p.m.). Donors can make secure donations to the Deutsch Institute through NEPA Gives’ online platform; visit nepagives.org. The Hawk Family Foundation will match donations.

In his own words: “Support and donations would mean that the Deutsch Institute could expand Zoom programs as well as provide smaller, in-person programs and day trips.” — Sean McHale, managing director