Project Creates Connections Across Communities

December 8, 2016

Thanks to an investment by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, Center for Independent Futures made 2016 the year of even more connections and community engagement. As the year comes to an end, we’ve developed resources and materials for other communities to create the same opportunities.

Through our Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, individuals with disabilities connect with community members who share their interests. Together, they attend events, volunteer, and enjoy their hobbies, helping participants create broader networks and fuller lives.

During the past year, Community Connectors trained and mentored volunteers in Evanston, Frankfort, and neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side. These volunteers, or Bridge Builders, introduced individuals with disabilities into mainstream community activities that match up with their interests and supported them to live fuller lives.

Across the three communities, individuals have engaged in their communities in a variety of ways. Ben, who has served as a volunteer firefighter, connected with the Evanston Fire Department and rode along with the crew. In Chicago, Pamela has become more active since connecting with a community member who shares her affinity for caring for children.

In Frankfort, Matt met Adam, who specializes in refinishing high-end custom cars. Before the Bridge Builder connection, Matt had worked part-time for two years at a car dealership. Despite asking to be taught how to change a tire, he was never allowed to learn. Now, Matt has seen every stage of refinishing up close, as Adam teaches Matt about the work being done to the cars.

“I found my passion because someone let me work in their shop. But for them, I would not be where I am,” Adam shared. “I think it’s great to be able to give that to Matt.”

Thanks to the Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, these individuals and more have accessed opportunities to pursue their passions and form relationships. To see more stories about what this project has made possible, click here to watch a short film.

Center for Independent Futures is excited to share resources we’ve developed for expanding, sustaining, and replicating similar projects in other communities as we strive to support enriched, inclusive communities. To view these materials, click here. For more information on how you can build bridges in your own community, contact us at (847) 328-2044.



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