Phil Gazzolo

It all started with the right recipe.

Phil’s Story

Can confidence be bottled? Can independence be put in a jar? For Phil Gazzolo, every jar of Uncle Phil’s Chili Pop BBQ Sauce represents a dream fulfilled. Fittingly, the labels are inscribed with the words “Living the Dream” and feature a photo of Phil wearing a broad smile and jaunty hat while holding a handful of peppers.

“Phil had this idea for a while,” explained Michelle Gazzolo, Phil’s sister. “He wanted to create something he could offer people, something everyone would enjoy. While our family has always been supportive of Phil, our work with Center for Independent Futures helped to ignite our spirits and expand our efforts to help him realize his hopes and dreams.”

“I love cooking, and I wanted to make a new barbeque sauce with my special recipe to market in lots of places. And I get to be the head man!” added Phil

Working with My Full Life™ person-centered planning, Phil was able to take his idea to unexpected heights. Center for Independent Futures supported his vision by helping with the manufacturing, bottling, and sales of Uncle Phil’s BBQ Sauce to our community.

Before finding Center for Independent Futures, Phil’s family was unhappy with his housing, which they felt could be both more comfortable and safer. They also hoped for a more stimulating environment, as he spent much of his time alone in his apartment with limited social interaction, and were concerned about his overall health.

Today, Phil lives in a condominium at Sienna Gardens, which is one of our Community Living Option™ residences. “When we looked at Sienna Gardens, Phil was instantly excited, and we trusted that Center for Independent Futures had the supports in place that were needed for Phil to live in this more independent environment,” explained Michelle.

By working with his Life Skills Tutors, Phil has transformed his home, social life and fitness. He sticks to his weekly workout plan and a new diet. In addition to improved health, Phil has a more active social life. He spends time with friends and organizes get-togethers for fellow participants. He has learned to get involved and give back to his community, and he currently serves on staff at the Warming House Youth Center in Wilmette, where he has helped organize bowl-a-thon fundraisers.

Phil achieved another dream he shared during his My Full Life planning process: traveling. Phil flew to Florida on his own to visit a family member for a fishing trip, visited his sister in Michigan with a good friend, and spent time with other relatives in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was during the trip to Charlotte that the iconic photo for the Uncle Phil’s BBQ Sauce label was taken.

Phil’s mother, Barbara, reflected on her son’s progress, saying, “Phil’s confidence and independence have grown since he began working with Center for Independent Futures. I’m really grateful for that.”

For Phil, pursuing his dream resulted in the recipe for a happier and fuller life. It includes a safe, comfortable home, a more dynamic social life, travel opportunities, meaningful work, a focus on wellness, and opportunities to make dreams happen. “With Center for Independent Futures’ support, Phil has seen and realized many new possibilities for himself,” Michelle said.

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