Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board Share Laughter

The Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board’s most recent gathering wasn’t a typical meeting. Instead, the office was full of activity as some acted out flipping a pancake or figure skating and others tried to get their teammates to guess movie titles. The two groups came together for pizza, charades, and laughter, creating new connections and strengthening existing friendships.

The Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board both support Center for Independent Futures’ mission through fundraising and awareness efforts. The Advisory Council is a group of Center for Independent Futures participants, while the Auxiliary Board is made up of young professionals. The groups plan separate and collaborative fundraisers and social events and work together to support SPARK, our largest fundraiser.

If you’re interested in meeting members of the Auxiliary Board or Advisory Council, join us for dinner on Tuesday, August 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Evanston’s Potbelly Sandwich Shop (603 Davis Street). That night, a portion of all sales will be donated back to Center for Independent Futures to support our Bank of America Chicago Marathon team. Along with other members of our community, the Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board will gather for dinner to socialize and support our runners.

To learn more about how to get involved with either group, contact us at center@independentfutures.com or call (847) 328-2044.

Looking Ahead at the End of Pride Month

By Avielle Suria Trenche

Pride Month has been an eventful time in Chicagoland! As it comes to a close, we want to celebrate by featuring the efforts of our community members and sharing ways to get involved after Pride Month ends.

LGBTQ advocate SandyCenter for Independent Futures participant Sandy Clymo serves as an Advocate at an organization called Proud & Included. Proud & Included provides individuals with developmental disabilities who identify as LGBTQ with opportunities to build community and tools to advocate for themselves. Sandy is also an ambassador at Proud & Included, a role that includes mentoring, training, and encouraging self-advocates to participate in the community as their true selves.

The Proud & Included community welcomes individuals with disabilities who identify as LGBTQ as well as allies and family members. It’s a place for anyone seeking effective ways to promote self-advocacy and support their loved ones. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new friends and explore identities in a supportive group.

Proud & Included logoIf you’re interested in getting involved, you can attend a monthly Participant/Ally Meetings, where people come together to learn about inclusion, community events, and local resources. Their next meeting will be held on Sunday, July 9, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Center on Halsted. You can register for the event using this link: Proud & Included Monthly Participant/Ally Meeting

The celebration doesn’t stop there! Proud & Included plans to participate in the 2017 Disability Pride Parade on Saturday, July 22. You can find more information about getting involved with the parade at this link: Proud & Included Marches in Disability Pride Parade

To learn more about the Disability Pride Parade, visit www.disabilityprideparade.org. The parade’s mission is to change the way people think about disability so that society can recognize it as a natural part of human diversity, in which people can take pride.

“Spread your wings! People should be what they want, go wherever they want, and do what they want. Remember, be confident, and proud!” – JoJo Michaels, Proud & Included Ambassador

 

Medicaid Cuts Threaten Our Community

United States Capitol BuildingDear friends,

Recent media has focused on how Russia may have impacted the election and the voting process, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. As we share concerns about threats from others, we must be equally concerned about threats from within.

A very serious threat that requires your immediate attention and action is proposed changes to Medicaid funding. By June 30, the Senate is expected to vote on legislation to significantly alter and reduce services provided through the Medicaid program. This proposed reduction will drastically affect the lives of individuals with disabilities, impacting their access to the basic liberties of Americans. 

At risk are Medicaid services that provide essential supports, including Home and Community Based Services. These allow individuals to access the workplace, purchase and prepare meals and engage with fellow community members. All of these everyday activities may be threatened by the proposed cuts.

Now is the time to act to protect these liberties. I implore you to call your elected representatives to share the devastating impact that cuts to Medicaid would have on your family and your community. To find contact information for your representative, click here. Senators outside of Illinois also need to hear our voices, particularly in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If you know anyone in these states, encourage them to call their Senators to support Medicaid.

Thank you for joining with us to protect the futures of individuals with disabilities.

Sincerely,

Ann C. Sickon
Executive Director
Center for Independent Futures

 

To learn more about the proposed bill, view information from the Arc of the United States by clicking here.

Click here to read a letter from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law about the damages these cuts will cause in communities.

Sign On to Improve Paratransit Services

Photo of Pace transit busGetting around the community is essential to a full life. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures the existence of paratransit to supplement accessible public transportation, providing individualized rides without fixed routes or schedules. Unfortunately, these services don’t allow the same flexibility as other methods of transportation.

“The way the system is currently designed, you have to call 24 hours ahead for next-day service,” Stephen Hiatt-Leonard explains. “Persons who are certified to use the service have to plan their schedules around transportation. There is no spontaneity in their lives.”

Stephen, a student at Southern Illinois University, is working to change these problems to give individuals with disabilities access to the transportation they need to take advantage of daily opportunities. He created a petition directed at Pace Suburban Bus, which oversees paratransit services in Chicagoland.

To support Stephen’s campaign to improve these transportation services, click here to sign his petition on Change.org. Read on below for a letter from Stephen about why this change is so important to individuals with disabilities.

Hello,

My name is Stephen Hiatt-Leonard. I’m a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale currently majoring in rehabilitation services. I’m also an ADA Pace Paratransit user.

I came to the realization this summer that ADA Paratransit does not give individuals with disabilities who are eligible for the service the flexibility to do things with their friends or at a moment’s notice – because we have to call 24 hours in advance for next-day service.

It is my goal to change that and have ADA Paratransit services available the same day clients call for reservations. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale paratransit system has something similar to this where we can call 24 hours or 1-2 hours for same-day service.

My paratransit work began at SIU, where the paratransit system did not serve students well. As a Senator for students with disabilities in the Undergraduate Student Government, I worked with administration to correct the problem. In a year, we had a new paratransit system in place.

Next, on to Chicago and Pace. There is a lot of work to do to make Pace more user-friendly. I began a petition on Change.org and am currently accepting signatures. The major change is to make the service more accessible to passengers through the ability to call and be picked up in a short period of time, like an hour, rather than making a reservation the day before. The current system limits the ability to make and keep last-minute appointments, to interact in the community as others are able to do, and to be spontaneous. This update is not going to happen quickly, but my hope is that eventually we will be able to see the change.

Stephen Hiatt-Leonard

Evanston, Ill.
Student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Rehabilitation Services program at the Rehabilitation Institute

Dream Team Conquers Bike the Drive

On Sunday, May 28, the Center for Independent Futures Dream Team woke up before the sun rose. By 5:15 a.m., they were at the office, ready for the first leg of their journey into the city for the MB Bike the Drive.

During Bike the Drive, our Dream Team and thousands of other bikers took over Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, which was closed to cars for the event. The skyline on one side and Lake Michigan on the other perfectly framed miles of open road. The cyclists who rode with the team included participants, staff members, and other community members, some of whom rode for the sixth year in a row. Two father-son duos rode this year, along with three staff members and three members of our Auxiliary Board.

The ride set off from Chicago’s iconic Buckingham Fountain, where the Dream Team headed north. The trip to the end of Lake Shore Drive was nine miles, and many riders continued on their bikes all the way back to Evanston.

Bike the Drive 2017 may be over, but you can still support the riders by helping them reach their fundraising goals. To support the Dream Team, visit their fundraising page at this link. You can donate to the efforts of individual riders by clicking on the photos at the bottom of the page, or support the entire team by clicking on the orange “Donate to this fundraiser” button. Thank you to our team and all who supported their efforts to ride for hopes and dreams.

To see more photos from the event, click here!

Sailing Again

By Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant

My grandfather’s hobby was boatbuilding, and he made sure that we all knew how to sail. This favorite pastime filled me with confidence, strength and a love of a summer day on the water. As often happens, my pastime was set aside for other commitments. And, almost every day, I found myself thinking, “I’d love to sail again.”

In my work at Center for Independent Futures, I have the privilege of supporting the hopes and dreams of individuals and their families as we plan for their full lives. We work together on living outside of our comfort zones, trying new experiences, and creating positive connections with others in our communities. And yet, I was not getting any closer to going to the dock to make the connections I’d need to get back on a sailboat.

Then I met Michael, my new sailing friend. Our first connection was at a Center for Independent Futures Social Hour where I happened to sit down next to him. On that cold winter’s day Michael and I talked about our common passion for sailing. He mentioned that he spends a lot of his summer time volunteering at the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation run out of Burnham Harbor. Michael has committed 17 years of volunteer service to this program that encourages fun and safe sailing and racing for people of all abilities. My mind was filled with visions of choppy water, the sound of lines against the mast, and the excitement of a fun day on the water. I left that day thinking, again, “I’d love to sail again.”

Michael didn’t forget! The next time I got to see him, Michael handed me a card with all of the contact information I’d need to get involved at his sailing program. He gave me the dates of the late spring volunteer training classes, and above all, he encouraged me to join him at the dock. Michael inspired and reassured me as I was feeling a bit rusty after all these years. Now Michael is my mentor at the Judd Goldman Sailing volunteer program.

Often, individuals with disabilities are isolated and unable to access opportunities to explore their interests and talents. Center for Independent Futures works to create stronger networks with individuals to connect them with others, leading to healthier, happier lives. In this case, though, our typical roles were reversed. Michael supported me, introduced me to his fellow volunteers, and encouraged me to pursue a dream. Michael’s generosity and supportiveness show that when individuals with disabilities have the chance to participate and contribute their gifts, the entire community grows stronger.

The Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation supports people with disabilities to experience the joy of sailing and develop new skills. To learn more, call (312) 747-7684 or visit www.juddgoldmansailing.org.

Training is Underway for Team CIF

Past team member Lucille holds arms out in victory after completing Chicago Marathon
Past team member Lucille holds arms out in victory after completing Chicago Marathon

On October 8, nine members of the Center for Independent Futures community will collectively run over 230 miles to support hopes and dreams. That day, Team CIF will join 45,000 runners to take on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon while raising funds and awareness to support individuals with disabilities and their families.

Over the next four months of training, our runners are making their miles count. To honor the hard work our runners will undertake on this journey, you can support Team CIF by helping them along the way to their fundraising goal. Visit this link and click on the red button on the right that says, “Donate to this fundraiser.” You can also visit the runners’ individual fundraising pages by clicking on names listed below.

All of the funds raised by Team CIF help Center for Independent Futures continue creating innovative solutions for individuals with disabilities and their families. To learn more about supporting Team CIF, contact Elizabeth Male at (847) 328-2044 or emale@independentfutures.com. Thank you for helping our dedicated team run for possibilities!

Team CIF 2017
Nick Connell
Richard Koenig
Sharon Koenig
Megan Madigan
Elizabeth Male
Pattie O’Leary
Alexandra Swift
Alyssa Thiem
Taryn Westra

Support Team CIF by clicking here!

Aspire CoffeeWorks Supports Community in Every Cup

Thanks to Aspire CoffeeWorks, your morning coffee can do more than just wake you up. Aspire CoffeeWorks is a social enterprise partnership between Aspire, an organization that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities, and Metropolis Coffee Company, an artisan, award-winning coffee roaster.

Since 2009, the two have collaborated to create delicious coffees, sold by the bag and as single-serving pods. On the Aspire CoffeeWorks team, adults with and without disabilities work side by side, demonstrating the mutual benefits of an inclusive workforce.

Individuals like Bridget have access to opportunities to develop new skills and earn a competitive wage. After learning tasks like bagging, labeling and shipping coffee, Bridget was hired as a production assistant. Today, her role makes up one aspect of her full life.

On top of providing these opportunities, 100% of Aspire CoffeeWorks’ proceeds support Aspires’ services and programs that strengthen families and communities. Stock up your own coffee stash or find great gifts for others at their online store here. To learn more about this incredible partnership between Aspire and Metropolis, watch Aspire CoffeeWorks’ short video at this link.

Training to Organize for Change

By Kathy Lyons, Project Director

Center for Independent Futures staff recently learned more about the power of organizing for social, economic, and political justice at the Midwest Academy’s “Organizing for Social Change” training.

At the week-long training, five staff members learned effective strategies to win the support of influential decision-makers and take a results-oriented approach to social action. Our participation in this training was funded by an investment by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Council’s investment supports a two-year project to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in several Chicagoland communities

During the training, we learned strategies to alter relationships of power between citizens and decision-makers. This change can come from building strong and sustainable organizations and changing laws and social systems. The tools we developed throughout the week will support our efforts to improve the structures and mindsets of organizations, leading to full participation from all individuals.

The Midwest Academy is a national training institute committed to advancing the struggle for social, economic, and racial justice. Founded in 1973, the Academy strives to give people a sense of their own power to improve society, providing training to groups ranging from neighborhood to national organizations. Our training cohort included individuals and organizations from across the country, such as Amnesty International, Working America, Open Communities, and Lo Que Puede Venir (“What May Come”).

Since 2002, Center for Independent Futures has advocated on a local, state, and national level for opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We know that when individuals with disabilities build happier, healthier lives, our entire community grows stronger.

The training deepened our commitment to creating a future in which individuals with disabilities are empowered to demand – and win – access to all of the opportunities of a full life. Stay tuned as we put into action what we learned as change champions for inclusive communities!

Families Bring Their Voices to On the Table

On Tuesday, May 16, Center for Independent Futures returned to its origins by hosting a conversation of families around a table. For the fourth year, we participated in Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table initiative. This regionwide movement gathers individuals for important discussions about how to strengthen communities.

Our conversation over dinner focused on creating natural supports for individuals with disabilities and forming the relationships that help sustain full lives into the future. The group was made up of staff members and parents, including members of our Board of Directors.

Led by Northwestern professor emeritus Dr. Paul Arntson, group members brainstormed ways their loved ones with disabilities are involved with community. Themes in the conversation included the importance of both intra- and inter-community relationships, reciprocity, and the power of volunteerism as a basis for friendships.

The conversation will guide our work in future efforts like our Community Connectors and Bridge Builders Project, which grows individuals’ personal networks by connecting them with community members who share their interests. We’re grateful for the insights of our community and look forward to hosting another discussion next year. For more information about On the Table, visit www.onthetable.com.

Success Stories

sun15sep11:00 am12:45 pmBowling

mon16sep4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

mon16sep5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

tue17sep1:30 pm2:30 pmWalking Club

tue17sep7:00 pm8:30 pmTalent Show & BBQ

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