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.

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. 

Success Stories

mon03oct1:30 pmmon2:30 pmEarly Book Club - Zoom

mon03oct4:00 pmmon5:00 pmYoga - Monday - In Person & Zoom

mon03oct5:00 pmmon6:00 pmBook Club - Zoom

tue04oct3:00 pmtue4:00 pmWalking Club - In Person

wed05oct1:00 pmwed2:00 pmSocial Hour - Wednesday - Zoom

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