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

 

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.

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.

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!

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