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.”
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.
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.”
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!
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?
According 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?
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?
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.”
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
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
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
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!”
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.
Why do runners sign up for the Chicago Marathon with Team CIF?
Because we have hope.
Hope in a future where we can gather.
Hope in a future where everyone’s dreams are valued.
Hope in a future where individuals with disabilities live independently, building the lives they want.
We Have Never Lost Hope
Uncertainty filled our world in 2020 and has spilled over into 2021. When will we be able to gather together? When will we get vaccines? When will our lives feel normal again?
Planning events and gatherings for 2021 is another challenge that has left us with so many questions. How far out is long enough? Will enough vaccine be available for everyone? Will they hold or cancel the 2021 Chicago Marathon?
At Independent Futures, we continue to be cautious, but we have never lost hope. Our community is strong but tired of isolation. So in 2021, we will host monthly virtual zoom “fun-raisers.” We will gather virtually for Drag Bingo Night, Wine Tasting events, and much more!
Still, almost every day, participants, their family members, and staff ask, “When will we see each other again in real life?”
Who Will Train and Fundraise in 2021?
In this time of uncertainty, who will put in the effort required to train for a 26.2 mile run with the threat of cancellation hanging over them? Who will work to raise at least $1,250 as part of being on a charity team?
Board members, family, staff, and friends have signed up! Thirteen runners have committed to run because they know that the lives of individuals with disabilities can not wait. Eight runners from TeamCIF who registered for the 2020 Chicago Marathon have rolled over their entries to 2021, and five new team members have registered.
Team CIF runners understand the impact our programs have on the lives of our participants. Jim Ducayet is a father of two participants, an Independent Futures Board Member, and a first-time TeamCIF runner. He said, “Running the 2021 Chicago Marathon this year just feels right. There have been so many events we missed in 2020. I’m excited to train and fundraise for something so positive and meaningful. Full lives can’t wait!”
Our Impact in a Virtual World
Our runners know that Independent Futures has responded to these difficult times by moving forward with hope and purpose in the face of so much uncertainty.
My Full Life™, the most comprehensive system for supporting person-centered learning, has introduced new virtual skill certifications that provide live, teacher-led instruction for participants to work on independent living skills remotely.
New Futures Initiative™, our signature housing training workshop, is piloting a new virtual format. Virtual learning allows families anywhere in the country to benefit from our extensive experience in developing housing for independent living.
Independent Futures’ tutors have tirelessly supported local individuals throughout the pandemic to stay safe, manage stress and frustration, and continue to live independent lives.
Join Us in the Chicago Marathon!
There is still time to join TeamCIF! Now isn’t the time to sit and wait. Email Joanie if you are interested in running with us. Many of our TeamCIF members are first-time marathoners, and all team members receive training support and help fundraising.
Not a runner? As the big event gets closer, we will give you opportunities to donate to our runners. Supporters can also join our volunteer club to make cards to encourage the runners as they train. We all hope to join TeamCIF at the Charity Mile to cheer for everyone in October!
When our staff gathered virtually this week for our Monday morning meeting, we reflected on the extraordinary events of the previous weeks. Together, we talked about how staff and participants are dealing with these trying times. Our thoughts and reactions included shock, disbelief, and fear of the future.
Why is this happening in our country?
Why are people so angry?
What will happen next?
Many feel saddened and fearful hearing daily reports of deaths due to COVID-19 and the recent violence and hatred attacking the foundations of our democracy. The news has overwhelmed many people’s hopes for the fresh starts and new beginnings that often accompany the New Year. Instead more worries and concerns are added to our already strained lives.
At Independent Futures, we are mindful of participants, their families, and our staff as we all try to navigate these chaotic times. Our feelings of disbelief and fear are real and valid.
But how do we pivot from fear to courage? Can we choose to be hopeful?
Our Next Steps Forward
While the times we live in are stressful, we can choose to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Individually, we can reach out to family, focus on self-care by listening to what our bodies need, and make choices that will keep us safe from the virus and violence.
As a community, we can have conversations and be open to new ideas. We can choose to be tolerant of different views, and choose to be brave and open. We can chart new courses with new perspectives. We can continue to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live full lives in their communities.
Together, we have strength.
Together, we can choose hope.
Together, we can work towards a more strong, equitable, and collaborative community.
Looking back on 2020, it is clear that this year has brought many unexpected challenges. However, 2020 prompted us to be better, more creative problem solvers. Each unprecedented moment of this year showed us that when our communities support each other, nothing is impossible.
While we reflect on the past year, it is also time to look forward to 2021. The next year holds many exciting challenges and opportunities for Independent Futures. To keep Independent Futures moving forward, check out these 5 reasons to give, helping us create momentum into 2021.
Activities Like Never Before
When the pandemic began, we quickly moved our activities into virtual spaces. Since then, these virtual activities have been a bright spot for individuals who are used to exploring their community. Being required to stay inside has meant there is an increased need for the supports that Independent Futures offers to adults with disabilities.
In 2021, we will continue offering virtual activities for any individuals who want to sign up. Your support makes it possible to continue offering ways to lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation during the rest of the pandemic.
New Ways To Learn Life Skills
Our My Full Life™ team is working on ways to get skill development support to more individuals than ever before. Even before the pandemic began, many agencies had waiting lists for supports that would last months. With the changes we are making to My Full Life, Independent Futures hopes to help reduce those waiting times. Keep watching for more news soon, but your support is key to making opportunities accessible for adults with disabilities nationwide.
Creating Housing Options Online
The New Futures Initiative™ team is creating new ways to expand access to our housing training too. The team is testing online training with our partners at Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin. For family groups across the country, this online option could make a big difference. In 2021, our consultation teams will focus on growing access to our unique programs.
Continuing Incredible Supports
Independent Futures’ Direct Support team never stopped providing supports to our community. By creatively problem-solving with participants, life skills tutors have used Zoom, social distancing, and mask guidelines to keep our community safe while continuing to provide support. The need for support couldn’t be paused, and the need will continue in 2021.
Sustaining This Community
With virtual events and online activities, sustaining our community has taken a village. By working together, our staff was able to provide supports and fun through even the hardest moments of 2020.
Together, we have all experienced things differently than ever before. But it is clear that the work of building and sustaining community is never done. With your support, our community can reach more folks than ever in the new year. Make a gift online today at our online giving page!
On Saturday, November 7th, Independent Futures hosted our first ever virtual SPARK! This community has grown so much over the past year. It was time to celebrate! Whether you were able to join us or not, you can watch the video on YouTube. Until then, check out the recap of a night we will never forget.
Wonderful Performances At SPARK
Did you know that the Independent Futures community is fortunate to have artists of all types? At SPARK, three individuals treated us to performances of their talents. Sheila Serota sang an original song for us. Adrian Drower performed an original poetry reading. Finally, Carlos Coleman played a lovely piano duet. Check out the performances and learn more about these artists in the clip below.
Our Awesome Community
Like always, we announced the recipients of the Jane Doyle Awesome Awards at SPARK. First, our outstanding Community Partner has always offered their support during our events. Dennis Clarkson and Gigio’s Pizzeria are like a family, and they have always helped out whenever they could.
The Staff recipient puts equity and access at the forefront of all that she does. In her work with the Evanston Township High School Transition House, students develop important life skills before leaving school. Sharon Purdy truly embodies what it means to be community focused.
Finally, the Participant recipient is someone who has a vibrant social life and is always willing to lend a hand. Jenny Mottola serves on the Advisory Council and has been part of our community for many years.
Aiming For The Stars
At the end of the evening, we were joined by our favorite Chicagoland band, Euphoria! With a 45 minute set, Euphoria helped us make SPARK 2020 an evening to remember. Audience members got out of their seats and danced through every song Euphoria played!
And to make the evening even better, we met our fundraising goal thanks to all of your support! Not only did we reach our goal, but we were also able to fulfill the match offered by generous donors. Now we are ready to take on 2021 and everything the new year will bring.
We don’t have all of the information about SPARK 2021 yet, but we expect to hold the event in the fall. We hope to see you all there!