$8,000 donation springboards Quad Cities Autism Center renovation

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MOLINE, Illinois – With a little help from a family-run Mexican food restaurant, the Quad Cities autism Center is planning some long-awaited renovations.

Michelle Smyth started working with children with autism more than 12 years ago, by simply spending time with her son in their basement. She connected with a friend of a friend, and her number grew to two.

Soon, Smyth was working with several children, and needed a better-suited space. She rented a room at what was once New Hope Community Center. Ten years later, her team bought the building and turned it into the Quad Cities Autism Center.

The donation came after Ganzo’s owner, Pat Puente, and his wife toured the facility. Smyth said Ganzo’s Mexican Restaurant in Davenport has sponsored a 5K race to celebrate Cinco De Mayo for the past six years. This year, the owner of Ganzo’s chose to give all the proceeds, $8,000 to QCAC.

(Ganzo’s hands the $8,000 check to QCAC)

Puente, who has a child with autism, invited the team at the center to be a part of the race committee.

“They kind of adopted us, so to speak,” Smyth said.

(QCAC at their booth at Ganzo’s Cinco de Mayo 5K)

The center was still leasing rooms to different organizations until two months ago when the last renter moved out. Smyth said she has already begun work on the space.

“The paint is already on the walls,” she said. “I’d like to move on this very quickly now that the money is in our hands.”

Smyth said the couldn’t have done this without the help of Ganzo’s.

“Due to the incredible generosity of Ganzo’s, the QCAC will now purchase top quality audio/video equipment, conference tables and chairs, toys and additional training materials for this dedicated space,” she wrote in an email.

The space will be used as a parenting training suite. The center will be able to purchase video and audio equipment as well as other necessities for a workshop area.

(The space before renovation)

Smyth’s goal is for autism education to go “beyond the walls” of the center, so parents can learn how to better interact with their children and apply this knowledge out in the community.

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