LIVINGSTON, NJ — "Lifetown" in Livingston, New Jersey welcomed their newest shop Tuesday - a ShopRite grocery store. The indoor replica of a downtown center is geared toward helping children with special needs learn life skills.
"I got pretzels and a juice box," said Gianluca Tedeschi, 11.
ShopRite also donated $100,000 to the 53,000-square-foot facility. In addition to a Main Street with a movie theater, a pet store, a bank with real money and a beauty salon, the facility also has a turf football field and they will soon open a wheelchair-accessible swimming pool.
Children visiting LifeTown's stores pay for goods and services with real money, which they get from the local bank. LifeTown dispenses and collects all the cash exchanged at the end of the day, so the children can play along for free.
"LifeTown is the community coming together," said Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum.
He and his wife Toba, lead the local chapter of Friendship Circle. Together, they created this space. Friendship Circle’s mission is to give children with special needs a full range of life experiences and support.
"We are so fortunate as family-owned businesses to be a part of this program," said Neil Greenstein, a ShopRite store owner.
The facility is also open to families on nights and weekends and they are looking for volunteers staring at age 12 or 13 and up.