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.

Support Our Community With Gigio’s Pizzeria

Gigio's sign outside restaurantEvery day in June, you can support Center for Independent Futures at your favorite neighborhood pizza place, Gigio’s Pizzeria! For every extra-large pizza ordered during the month, Gigio’s will donate two dollars back to Center for Independent Futures.

This year will be the second that Gigo’s is supporting our community. Last year, their efforts raised over $500 for hopes and dreams. To order your extra-large pizza during the month of June to support Center for Independent Futures, call Gigio’s at (847) 328-0990 or visit them at 1001 Davis Street in downtown Evanston, just down the block from our office.

Gigio’s Pizzeria has been serving the community since 1968, making it the oldest pizza place in Evanston. Gigio’s specializes in New York-style, thin-crust pizza, and the menu offers burgers, hot dogs, Italian beef and sausages, tacos and burritos, salads, and homemade soups. Your participation in this fundraiser supports our work toward a future where individuals with disabilities have access to all opportunities of a full life.

Highlights from SPARK 2017

Center for Independent Futures’ eleventh annual SPARK was a joyful celebration of fifteen years of supporting hopes and dreams. Thank you to all who attended, volunteered, and supported the event to help us commemorate this anniversary! View our full album of photos on Facebook here, and check out 6 of our favorite moments below:

  1. Participants sharing their stories: We heard from four individuals whose involvement spanned the length of our fifteen years about their full lives. Thank you to Paige, Avi, Jenny, and Adam for sharing!
  2. Photo loop of memories from the past fifteen years: During dinner, guests enjoyed a slideshow of images from Center for Independent Futures’ history. In case you missed it, check it out on our YouTube channel by clicking here.
  3. A matching challenge and your generosity: Thanks to an incredible donor, $30,000 raised by guests at SPARK was matched dollar-for-dollar to go twice as far to support hopes and dreams.
  4. The third annual Jane Doyle Awesome Awards: This year, we honored staff member Rob Larson, community partner First Bank & Trust, and participant Matthew LaChapelle. Read more about the award winners here.
  5. The live auction: After exciting bidding contests,, lucky winners went home with an original painting by staff member Rob Larson, tickets to U2/The Lumineers and Bruno Mars, an Evanston staycation, and a four-night getaway.
  6. Dancing the night away: The dance floor was packed and energy was high with music from Euphoria Band. Lady Gaga made a special guest appearance, thanks to the talented actors from Collaboraction Theater Company who brought the stars to SPARK.

Thank you to all who attended, volunteered, participated in the raffle or Heads or Tails game, bid in the silent or live auctions, and supported us through donations. We are especially grateful to our sponsors, including premium platinum sponsor Stone Heritage Properties, gold sponsor PSAV, silver sponsor First Bank & Trust, and bronze sponsors Inland BankMonahan Law Group, and Rubin Law. Dessert sponsors Bennison’s BakeryBeth’s Little Bake ShopEli’s CheesecakeFlat Top GrillLawrence Deans Bake ShopNothing Bundt CakesSweety Pies BakeryThree Tarts Bakery & Cafe, and Trader Joe’s filled our decadent dessert displays. Beverage sponsor Lagunitas Brewing Company helped us stock the bars with local beer.

Because of all of our supporters, old and new, SPARK 2017 was a shining success, allowing us to continue creating innovative solutions for individuals with disabilities and their families as they pursue their hopes and dreams.

Check out our full album of photos on Facebook here!

Third Annual Awesome Awards Presented

The Center for Independent Futures community is full of individuals and organizations that build connections, embrace differences, and support others. At SPARK every year, we present three with the Jane Doyle Awesome Award, honoring co-founder Jane Doyle’s legacy by selecting a staff member, community partner, and participant who show innovative leadership and personal integrity.

Staff award winner Rob Larson looking to his left in front of blue background.The 2017 Awesome Award in the staff category was presented to Community Life Coordinator Rob Larson. Rob is exceptional in strengthening connections and mentoring others. He is dedicated to enriching the lives of the individuals and families he supports through clear and respectful communication and a constant willingness to help. Rob’s thoughtful ideas, excellent listening, and creative problem-solving make him a gift to the Center for Independent Futures community.

The community partner honored was First Bank & Trust. First Bank & TrustFirst Bank & Trust of Evanston logo has walked beside Center for Independent Futures since we began our journey 15 years ago. Employees at the bank have formed caring relationships with members of our community, always going the extra mile. First Bank & Trust has been a long-time sponsor for SPARK and recently became an annual sponsor, partnering with us year-round to support hopes and dreams.

Participant award winner Matthew LaChapelle poses for portrait with hand on chin in front of teal background.Finally, the winner in the participant category was Matthew LaChapelle. Matthew takes risks to pursue new opportunities and is kind and encouraging to others. A strong advocate, Matthew readily shares his experiences as an individual with disabilities to challenge stereotypes and change perceptions. He serves as a mentor for younger campers at a camp in Colorado and works with Collaboraction Theater Company, a group committed to social change and diversity. As member of Center for Independent Futures’ Advisory Council, Matthew shares his voice and talents to make our community stronger.

We are grateful for the contributions that Rob, First Bank & Trust, and Matthew have made to the Center for Independent Futures community. Congratulations to these three individuals for this well-deserved honor!

Auxiliary Board Welcomes New Members

With four new members, our Auxiliary Board of young professionals is ready to support the Center for Independent Futures community by raising awareness, hosting fundraising and social events, and making connections with participants.

In the next few months, the board will be busy supporting SPARK, riding with the Dream Team at Bike the Drive, and hosting HamBingo at Hamburger Mary’s on June 4. Later this year, the board will hold social events with the Advisory Council and participate in Something’s Cooking, our fall fundraising event.

If you or a young professional you know is interested in supporting individuals with disabilities, making new connections, and having creative leadership opportunities, contact us at center@independentfutures.com or (847) 328-2044. In the meantime, meet our new board members below!

One of our new members, Anu Rajendran, has taken the leadership role of board chair. Anu, who earned her bachelor’s of science degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, works at GE Healthcare as an IT sales executive for ambulatory practices. Along with her experience in events, sales, and healthcare, Anu brings to the board her passion for giving back to the community.

David Jacob studied architecture at Southern Illinois University before going on to intern at an architecture firm, support medical research at Cook County Hospital, and served as a project manager at a start-up IT company. David now works in consulting, with particular interests in sustainability and alternative resources.

Monika Warnecka joined the board in part because of her experience volunteering with special education students while in school. Monika earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and works as a CPA on the state and local tax team at Grant Thornton.

David Suchite is already familiar with Center for Independent Futures community, having worked with our staff as a student at the Evanston Township High School’s Transition Program. David completed an internship at Center for Independent Futures and joined the staff as Office Administrator before accepting a full-time job at Prevent Blindness. David is excited to return to the community in a new role.

Help our Bike the Drive Riders Soar

Before dawn on Sunday, May 28, Lake Shore Drive will become a quiet expanse of pavement, emptied of cars. When Bike the Drive 2017 begins, thousands of cyclists will fill the road to enjoy beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Though the sights are stunning, some riders are hitting the street for more than a nice view.

Bikers representing Center for Independent Futures’ Dream Team will ride to raise funds for our mission: creating innovative service models that support individuals with disabilities and their families to live full, independent lives. The Dream Team has a goal to raise $10,000, and our riders need your support.

The team is a community of adults with and without disabilities including participants, staff, and other community members, many of whom are riding with us for the sixth year in a row. They’ll gather in Evanston before sunrise and travel to the city together for the ride of a lifetime.

Our bikers are busy training, spreading the word, and getting their bikes tuned up. To support our riders, visit the Dream Team’s Crowdrise online fundraising page at this link. You can donate to the efforts of individual riders by clicking on the photos toward the bottom of the page, or support the entire team by clicking on the orange “Donate to this fundraiser” button.

To learn more about the Dream Team and how to support our riders, contact Niki Moe at nmoe@independentfutures.com or (847) 328-2044.

SPARK 2017 Live Auction Preview

SPARK 2017 is around the corner on April 28! Get a preview of one of the most exciting parts of the evening: the live auction. This year, the auction includes tickets to two of Chicago’s most-anticipated musical events, airfare for two and four nights in Orlando, Las Vegas, or Arizona, an incredible Evanston staycation, and a piece of original artwork.

CHOOSE YOUR GETAWAY
Four nights in Orlando, Las Vegas, or Arizona in a two-bedroom condominium that sleeps four
Airfare for two
Value: $2,100.00

JOSHUA TREE TOUR: U2 AND THE LUMINEERS
Two (2) tickets to see U2 and The Lumineers on June 4, 2017, at Soldier Field
With an overnight stay at the luxurious Fairmont Chicago and gift certificate to Boeufhaus
Value: $775.00

A NIGHT OUT WITH BRUNO MARS
Two (2) tickets to the Bruno Mars 24K Magic World Tour on August 16, 2017, at The United Center
With an overnight stay at the luxurious Fairmont Chicago and a gift certificate to Girl and the Goat
Value: $675.00

ORIGINAL PAINTING BY ROB LARSON
Storm Clouds Rolling Out At Dawn
Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 24″
“There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
From the artist: I woke up at 4 AM on my birthday to paint the sunrise over Lake Michigan, and when I got set up on the beach, a large storm was on the horizon. As the sun started to rise, the dark storm clouds were transformed into a full array of blues, purples, and pinks. Instead of rain, the sunrise brought the light. The sky was reflected in the water and the sunlight filled the space with color.

AN EVENING AT SPACE AND UNION
Enjoy a night out at one of Evanston’s best venues with a $100 gift certificate for tickets to any show at SPACE, a $100 gift certificate to Union Pizzeria, and an overnight stay at the Hilton Orrington.
Value: $550.00

Philadelphia Organization Trains to Create Housing Options

When Sara Crimm heard about Center for Independent Futures’ New Futures InitiativeTM housing process, she decided to fly across the Midwest to see it for herself. Sara is the executive director of Families CCAN, an organization in Philadelphia led by families and individuals with disabilities seeking new solutions.

“I was following other housing projects across the country, and they were giving promises about visions and dreams, but there was nothing there. I looked at Center for Independent Futures and said wow, these people are really doing this. They have a track record,” Sara said.

Proven successful in our Community Living OptionsTM in Evanston, the New Futures InitiativeTM provides family groups and organizations with the tools and materials needed to create housing solutions. The process helps families tap into professional and community resources and offers the flexibility to create solutions that work for a range of support needs.

In November 2016, eight families gathered by Families CCAN came to Evanston to begin the workshops that make up the New Futures InitiativeTM training. During this trip, the families coalesced as a group, determined their methods of working together, and took inventory of their assets. For Lisa Nicholson and her husband, touring individuals’ homes was especially memorable. “Reading something and looking at a binder is one thing, but to see these young people in their own homes, and thriving—there’s nothing more impactful than that,” Lisa said.

When the group returned to Philadelphia, they began moving toward their vision using the tools they developed during the training. “Our meetings are productive and organized because of the framework, wealth of information, and guidelines about the timeframe of specific action steps. The structures Center for Independent Futures has provided are very powerful,” group member Amy McCann said.

As more members of the Families CCAN community prepare to take steps toward creating housing solutions, the organization will be ready to facilitate the process on their own. Two individuals are being trained by Center for Independent Futures to become process facilitators, providing Families CCAN with a sustainable way to continue creating solutions.

“We are really inspired by Center for Independent Futures,” Sara said. “Our vision for the future is to establish a variety of housing settings in Philadelphia that work for adults with disabilities. The more things that get developed, the better it is for everyone.”

2016 Annual Report Shares Stories of Connections

Center for Independent Futures is excited to share our latest annual report, sharing stories of our community and supporters. Read the annual report at this link!

In the 2016 annual report, you’ll find updates on our work with individuals, families, students, and other organizations. Read about how we support Nestor Gonzalez to live his dream of independence and how we’ve partnered with Equip for Equality to help students to plan for community life. Learn how we work with Lo Que Puede Venir to support Hispanic communities and get the update on our nationwide housing work.

The annual report includes a list of our supporters during the past year, including gifts given in tribute to or recognition of individuals. This edition of the annual report features a special update from Center for Independent Futures’ co-founders, reflecting on fifteen years of supporting hopes and dreams. We are grateful to all of our supporters and community members for another successful year building on this legacy.

 

Success Stories

sat26oct9:30 am1:30 pmFootball: Northwestern vs. Iowa

sun27oct11:00 am1:00 pmBowling

mon28oct4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

mon28oct5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

tue29oct1:30 pm2:30 pmWalking Club

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