Right to Independence

For almost 20 years, Independent Futures has been a haven for individuals with disabilities and their families navigating the adult world after public school supports end. In Illinois, we rank 47th nationally in funding for services that promote community inclusion and 47th in community employment. Families are left not knowing where to turn with a state-funded disability services system that lacks resources and opportunities for real choice and self-determination.

Independent Futures provides an answer. Adults with disabilities benefit from planning, training, inclusive housing, and a range of support services that they choose – to achieve full, active, socially engaged, and independent lives. 

“We invite you to watch the following video to hear firsthand how our work focuses on the hopes and dreams of individuals and families we support,” says Dick Malone, Executive Director of Center for Independent Futures. “​​We help individuals and families to find both independence and peace of mind.” 

 

 

 

The 2021 Jane Doyle Awesome Awards Winners

SPARK gives us a chance to celebrate the stellar individuals and organizations who support our work every day. Recipients of the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards represent Independent Futures through dedication, innovative leadership, personal integrity, and community-forward thinking. These awards are given to a community partner, a participant, and a staff member.

Community Partner: As an employer of Independent Futures’ participants, Trader Joe’s openly allows and encourages on-the-job coaching which gives participants a true path to success. They further support Independent Futures by donating countless items to our fundraisers. Trader Joe’s is a community-driven organization, an asset as an employer, and a generous community member.

Participant: Adam Wiser generously shares his time, his talent & his positive attitude to support Independent Futures.  As a self-advocate, Adam speaks out and speaks up to share his knowledge and to advocate for what he believes in. In community meetings, Adam asks great questions, shares his experience in a way that helps educate and inform others. When the Young Professional Board interviewed for 2 open positions, Adam’s self-advocacy skills shone brightly and he was an obvious choice to serve. Adam always finds a way to make suggestions, and is thoughtful, caring & has a fun sense of humor!

Staff: This year, tonight’s staff award seems like an obvious choice as we honor Ann Sickon for her leadership these past 10 years. Ann has exemplified all of the values that Kay and Jane envisioned for Center for Independent Futures 20 years ago. Ann’s steadfast, calm, creative, and compassionate leadership has helped Independent Futures grow in innumerable ways during her tenure. In particular, her faith and commitment to our mission, our staff, and our community kept Independent Futures moving forward through a global pandemic that forced the disability service providers across the nation to close their doors in record numbers. Numerous staff members commented that there was no better person to steer our ship during COVID than Ann. Ann has demonstrated over and over again a passionate desire to see people with disabilities fully included in the community.

The Gift of a Sister’s Love

In 2007, Arnie Schumer and his sister, Karen Berkowsky, came to Center for Independent Futures. They had no doubt it was the right fit for him, but they could not afford services. Through a scholarship fund, Independent Futures offered Arnie the support he needed to live his full life.

On May 22, 2017, Arnie passed away. He was a caring, generous person, and Independent Futures helped him grow and make the most of his life. Because of the impact on Arnie’s life, Karen decided the best way to honor him would be to help others get the support they need, too.

 

For years, Karen has been raising money for the Arnie Schumer Scholarship Fund at Independent Futures in many different ways. She connected us with the Community Foundation of Morton Grove, Women Giving Back, and countless friends and family.

 

This year she and friends have created and donated 25 elaborate gift baskets for the SPARK silent auction.  All proceeds from the sale of the baskets (#1-#25) will go to this fund. This generosity not only remembers Arnie but gives the gift of full lives to others.

 

To buy one of these baskets to support full lives, please visit our online auction site.

 

 

 

 

In memory of Arnie J. Schumer
June 28, 1963 – May 22, 2017

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend,
He referred to the dates on his tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came his date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That he spent alive on earth,
And now only those who loved him
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Golden Ticket, you ask?

Missed getting a ticket to SPARK? Why not buy a Golden Ticket!

What is a Golden Ticket, you ask? Well, by purchasing 1 or more of only 150 Golden Tickets, you will have a good chance to win YOUR CHOICE of one of the fabulous live-auction prizes before bidding even begins! We will draw the Golden Ticket winner just prior to the live auction at SPARK, and you could win one of these fabulous prizes for only $100! Choose your package when you buy your ticket. Winners need not be present. Buy yours today and snag a unique experience!

 

Magnificent Views in Costa Rica

Enjoy a weeklong vacation at Villa Magnifica in Costa Rica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and two gorgeous beaches. You and nine of your friends will enjoy this 5 bedroom villa featuring an outdoor shower, infinity-edge pool, and upstairs terrace view. Airfare is not included. Christmas time is the only blackout period, and the winner has 24 months to use their week.

 

Escape the City to Beautiful Galena, Illinois

You and 5 guests will enjoy this easy getaway just 3 hours from Chicago. This lovely 3 bedroom house is located in the heart of the Galena Territory, near golf courses and downtown Galena’s vibrant shopping district.  Dates to be mutually agreed upon with the owner and the winner has 24 months to use their week. This house is a beauty any time of year!

 

Gourmet Dinner for Eight in Your Home!

Evanston’s Deux Gourmandes, Chris Baer and Bonnie Dohogne will prepare and serve a five-course dinner for eight in your home. Chirs and Bonnie will work together with you to design the perfect meal to fit your taste! Dinner includes complimentary wine. Dates to be mutually agreed upon with the chefs, and the winner has 12 months to plan their dinner.

 

Experiential Night on the Town

Enjoy a multi-course dinner for two at Alinea. Alinea has been universally praised for its innovative approach to modernist cuisine. Alinea is one of only 14 restaurants in the U.S. to earn the coveted Michelin 3-Star rating. Wine pairing for two included in this experience. Gift card to include funds to cover 20% gratuity and valet parking.

 

Da Bears vs. Vikings, Monday, December 20th

The two tickets are located in Section 342, Row 10, Seats 17 & 18. This will be the last televised home game of the 2021/2022 season. Enjoy a night out with one of our favorite home teams. The package includes a gift card to cover parking, meals, and drinks, and includes a Bears scrapbook and four bobbleheads from the 100th year celebration.

The time is NOW to enter our Golden Ticket Raffle to snag one of our live-auction prizes for only $100! You do not need to be present to win.

My Job Before and After COVID, by Lindsay Tonyan

Before the pandemic, I was working from 10 am-2 pm in the dish room of Old Orchard Junior High. That’s where we wash dishes and there are big machines. I worked there for a total of 4 years already, and I like it.

It’s good because the schedule is helpful because I don’t get too many hours, and I get off holidays and the summers. I found this job by looking it up in Indeed. I applied for it, got an interview, and got hired right away.

Before the pandemic, it was difficult and rushed because there were a certain number of things I had to get done on time each day. I had to clean the dishes all by myself, put them through the dish machine, make sure they were dry and take them up to the front of the cafeteria to be served.

I kind of liked it – but it was hard at times. I really liked getting to know the kids. That was fun.

When the pandemic happened, I did not work. One of the supervisors told us that the school was going to be closed for an amount of time. I thought it might be less time, but it turned out to be longer.

This fall, it was kind of confusing. I didn’t hear from them until the last minute. I was missing work, but I was also glad to be staying safe. I felt both things. Because when I was off I got to do the things I needed to do, catch up on things. And spend time with my friends and people I hadn’t seen because I worked so much.

But I missed working, and I really missed the money to do the things I wanted to do. It was a loss.

I started back to school this past August. I was relieved that I got my job back!! Also, it threw me off guard because I wasn’t sure what was going on.

Now I only do dishwashing in the sinks which is much easier because it is only in one area. And I get to work in the kitchen with my co-workers instead of by myself which is good because I get to be around my coworkers. I like to be around people.

But now, it can get to be too much. I’m tired and I don’t have much energy for fun activities after work. But also I’m getting money that I need to buy the things that I like to get.

I’m staying with this job for another year.  Maybe in the future, I’d like to work with people or kids.  I like to help and volunteer, too.

I love my dog, Sandy.  She came here in 2016.  She has just turned 6 years old.  She came from a rescue group out of Houston. It’s called Patty’s Paws.  They foster and match people with their dogs.  The best part of having Sandy is her company and I like the attachment with a dog.  She’s good while I’m at work.

Lindsay Tonyan has been a participant at Center for Independent Futures since 2009. She is originally from McHenry, Illinois and she attended the PACE program in Evanston in 2003. After graduating from PACE, she lived on her own for a few years, then joined Independent Futures which she credits as “helping (her) focus on skills and goals in (her) life.”

Working Before and After the Pandemic by Adam Wiser

Before the pandemic, I was working at Nordstrom in Old Orchard usually 3 to 4 days a week. I was a busser in the Cafe, and I cleaned tables, put dishes in the back, and cleaned the floor.  I had been at that job for about 10 years.

I first learned about the pandemic in the news, but soon my manager talked to me and told me that since the pandemic happened, they were going to have to lay me off. He said that he would bring me back, but I didn’t know if that was certain or not. They just didn’t know what was going to happen.  

During the pandemic at home, I went through a lot of emotions like sadness, loneliness, and I felt like I didn’t know what I wanted to do. 

I was laid off for a year. During that time, I got emails about which Nordstrom stores were closing, and I didn’t know if it would be my store. Then we heard that some employees were going to be let go.  

In March of 2020, I got an email from my manager that we were going back. It felt good, but also a little weird at the same time. I hadn’t seen many people during the pandemic, and it was just so different to be back around people.  

We had meetings about going back to work, and the meetings were very helpful to me. But when I went back to work it was only going to be one day a week. That’s all they have for me. 

Now, I have two jobs. I work at Nordstrom and I’m also a self-advocate for Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance. Tara Ahern, a member of Independent Futures’ Self-Advocacy Club, contacted me in January and asked if I wanted to join the Alliance. I didn’t have a job back then, so I said yes. 

I do advocacy, so I speak up and speak out about my needs, or different topics like healthy sexuality or advocating for legislation. 

I don’t want more hours from Nordstrom. I’m in a good place right now. I’m used to talking about advocacy work, that I can reach out to the disability community now, and I’ve never done that before. The pandemic gave me new opportunities. This is a better balance for me.

Adam Wiser has been a participant with Independent Futures since 2012. He has worked at Nordstrom Cafe at Old Orchard for 11 years and has been a self-advocate with the Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance for almost a year.  He is an active member of Independent Futures’ Advocacy Awareness, Walking, and Biking Clubs. 

Richard Malone joins Independent Futures as Executive Director

Center for Independent Futures is excited to announce that Richard “Dick” Malone will be joining CIF as our third Executive Director. Ann Sickon will continue in the short term as Independent Futures’ Senior Executive Advisor.

Dick will be joining Center for Independent Futures after 11 years at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, where he was President and CEO. Dick will be bringing his experience in nonprofit leadership to Independent Futures to support individuals with disabilities as they live full lives in the community. As a parent of an adult with disabilities, Dick is highly motivated and invested in Center for Independent Futures’ mission.

Additionally, Dick will bring years of experience in publishing and digital media as a senior executive at Tribune Publishing and the Chicago Tribune.

“Since its founding nearly 20 years ago, Center for Independent Futures has made great things possible for adults with disabilities regarding equal opportunity, security, housing, and overall quality of life. I am proud and thankful to have the chance to work with such a talented staff as we strive to ensure full, active, happy, socially engaged, and independent lives for the individuals we serve,” says Dick. “I’m also fortunate to follow Executive Director Ann Sickon, who successfully led the organization through challenging times and has taken it to new heights.”

“We are fortunate that Dick has agreed to join us. He brings a wealth of experience and passion,” says Dana LaChapelle, Co-President of the CIF Board of Directors. “Ann is a tough act to follow, but we look forward to working with Dick in this next chapter of the organization as we expand on our mission of supporting individuals with disabilities.”

Fellow Co-Chair of the Independent Futures Board of Directors, Ira Mitchell, adds, “I am looking forward to seeing how Dick will use his experience in guiding Independent Futures not just to sustain our current reach, but to lead us in areas where we can grow and strengthen our organization.”

Team CIF is ready to roll – Bike the Drive 2021

We have our gears greased and our tires pumped!


TeamCIF is a community of adults with and without disabilities who participate in the Fifth Third Bike the Drive every year. This group is committed to raising funds for Center for Independent Futures, which supports adults with disabilities living full, independent lives.

Every dollar raised supports our efforts to provide virtual and in-person social opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Our activities are giving a lifeline to so many of our participants during these challenging times. Please donate today and support individuals with disabilities living their full lives!

On September 5th, our bike riders will join thousands of others on Lake Shore Drive. The entire length of this gorgeous route will be closed to regular traffic, open only to cyclists. It is an honor for our participants to take part in this Chicago tradition.

Please donate today and support individuals with disabilities living their full lives!

Donate to the entire team here. Individual riders’ pages may be found here: Mike SenerAdam WiserRicky GoodenJeff Morthorst, and the Fox Family.

Help Spread the Word!

I’ve Been Scammed! What Do I Do?

If you find out that your identity has been stolen or compromised – you are not alone. Cases of identity theft and fraud have been rampant during the pandemic and have hit very close to home. Several Independent Futures employees and participants have faced one particular scam in the past year: unemployment insurance fraud. 

What is unemployment insurance fraud, and how can I spot it?

An illustrated person is stealing credit card informationAccording to Independent Futures Human Resources Coordinator Cathy Norris, “Unemployment fraud is when someone, other than you, uses your name and personal information to file an unemployment insurance claim. Then, that person tries to receive unemployment benefits that they are not entitled to. If this happens to you, you should be told by your employer. Your employer receives notices from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) when unemployment insurance claims are filed. If a notice is received for you and you are actively working, your employer will report to IDES that you are actively working and not entitled to benefits. Then, you and your employer can take steps to report the fraud to IDES and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.)”

Most often, you will learn directly from your employer that a fraudulent claim has been filed in your name. You may also learn about fraud if a debit card or unemployment insurance letter arrives that you have not requested. Or you might receive a 1099-G tax form reflecting unemployment benefits that you weren’t expecting and didn’t receive. 

Someone has filed a claim in my name. What do I do now? 

It’s easy to feel frightened and confused in this situation, so we want to share a few hard-learned lessons. First, you will want to report the fraud to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). You can do this online or by calling (800) 814-0513. 

Another helpful resource is contacting your State Representative’s office. Most of Evanston is represented by Rep. Robyn Gabel and northwest Evanston is represented by Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz.  

According to the IDES, After you report identity theft fraud to IDES, the Department will investigate the claim. If IDES determines the claim is fraudulent, IDES will shut down the claim. The Department will also send you a letter to confirm that the claim has been stopped.”

Will I be responsible for any missing or stolen money? 

A person is scammed through a computer (illustration)The short answer is no. You will not need to pay back the money. Your employer won’t have to repay it either. But this may seem confusing because the IDES sometimes sends out letters by mistake through an automated system.

If you receive a letter demanding repayment, the IDES website states, “We’re so sorry for the anxiety this must have caused, and we want to reassure you that you do not owe any money as a result of a fraudulent claim. If you are a victim of fraud, you can ignore the overpayment notice. Our unemployment benefits computer system sends overpayment letters automatically when people really do need to repay benefits. Due to the massive number of fraudulent claims filed recently, the computer system sent many of these letters in error before we could stop them. We’re sorry you accidentally received one.” 

What can I do to avoid being scammed and protect my identity in the future?

In addition to the IDES, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace.” They also provide tips and suggestions for consumers to protect their identities. 

According to FTC Staff Attorney Samantha Denny Gordon, “We recommend that all consumers be wary of any unknown phone calls, emails, and letters. Consumers should also sign up for the FTC’s scam alerts to be aware of the latest scams.” 

Join Our Community – Rooms and Apartments Available Now

Here in Evanston, Center for Independent Futures supports many individuals with disabilities who work, live, and give back to our community. A place to call home is more than just an apartment or a room. It’s a place where you can be yourself and make your own decisions. If you or someone you know is looking for a new place to call home, we would love to share the opportunities we have for individuals with disabilities to live independently in our community. 

Harrison Street Community

Harrison House: a brown house with a red door
One of Center for Independent Futures’ community-based independent living options.

The Harrison Street Community is located in northwest Evanston on a comfortable tree-lined street within walking distance to many shops, hip restaurants, Metra, and bus lines. Currently, one bedroom is available on the first floor. The room is located in a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment shared by two men who have lived independently for many years. This apartment includes an elliptical machine, shared TV, and internet access with free laundry in the basement.  

An Independent Futures staff member called a Community Builder lives on the third floor and provides overnight support, daily check-ins, weekly meetings, and social events planned with the residents. Together, the residents and the Community Builder work to make this a safe place to grow, learn, play, relax, and live independently with support.  

Chicago Avenue Community

Chicago Avenue building
Chicago Ave is another unique housing option created by Center for Independent Futures families.

In more urban southeast Evanston, the Chicago Avenue Community has two apartments available on July 1st, 2021. This building is close to restaurants, grocery shopping, Lake Michigan, Metra, CTA, and bus lines. The first availability is a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment. The second is a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment that provides an excellent opportunity for up to three friends to move in together. 

Chicago Avenue contains six individual residences, including one for the Community Builder, who provides overnight support, daily check-ins, weekly hangouts, and social events planned with the residents. A community gathering space called “The Hub” on the first floor includes a full kitchen, dining area, shared TV, WiFi, and free laundry. The Hub is also a multi-use space for the wider Independent Futures community to host workshops, tutoring sessions, and celebrations. 

Community Builder Nick Connell observes, “I think the Independent Futures Communities offer a unique blend of interdependence and independence. That’s why I chose this role, to have mutually beneficial relationships and a community life that supports full independence with just the right amount of togetherness. It creates aliveness, wholehearted connection, opportunities for mutual support.” 

Find Support in Community

A group of roommates sit around a kitchen table.Center for Independent Futures provides personalized supports for each resident in our communities. In addition to Community Builder support, each resident works one-on-one with a Skills Tutor and Community Life Coordinator to strengthen independent living skills. Residents and Center for Independent Futures staff work together, exploring choices and options using our person-centered approach to create a full life. 

Long-time resident Jake Joehl explains, “I think people should choose to move into this community because we are a vibrant and active community. I’ve learned a lot from my time in this building, and all staff here really know what they’re doing. I feel welcome here, and I’ve met great people. I’ve also learned a thing or two about living independently!”

Contact us

If these community residences sound like a good fit for you or someone you know, call us at (847) 328-2044. For more information about our Community Living Options, click here

Success Stories

mon24jan1:00 pm2:00 pmSocial Hour - Monday - Zoom

mon24jan4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga - Monday - Zoom

mon24jan5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club - Zoom

tue25jan1:00 pm2:00 pmFun, Easy Drawing - Zoom

tue25jan6:30 pm8:00 pmArt Club - Zoom

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