The Center for Independence (or CFI) has advocated for and assisted people with disabilities to live more independently since 1982. The specialized programs that the non-profit focuses on are helping those with all forms of disabilities. Programs are in place to assist the visually and hearing impaired, at-risk youth, adults needing help with filing for public benefits, vocational training for people entering or re-entering the work force, advocacy for community access, assistive technology, and outreach to the homeless. They are a part of a state-wide network of 10 Independent Living Centers, serving twelve counties on the Western Slope. All of the available services offered are completely free of charge to individuals with disabilities.
Currently, the Center for Independence in Grand Junction employs 20 people; 51% of the staff is required to have some sort of disability per the federal funding they receive. However, they surpass the number that is required. “It is empowering to them that they can give back,” says Tami Walter, the Center’s Executive Assistant. People that are employed at the Center for Independence have disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, ADHD, to blindness. Toni, the receptionist at The CFI has multiple sclerosis and uses a walker. Mary and Lynn, who both have Cerebral Palsy, are in wheelchairs. Because of the Center for Independence, they are able to work at a place where they can empower others by example.
The CFI tailors assistance to each individual that comes through their doors. Because they help people with a wide range of disabilities, no two plans are the same. Each person in need is assigned a case manager. The case manager initially meets with the individual and together they create a plan that works best; the plan varies entirely on the person’s needs. During this meeting, it is determined that many individuals need help with receiving social security or other benefits. The average wait time for SSDI benefits is two to four years. With the help of CFI, that wait time is cut down to three to six months. “During that waiting time, people kind of get lost,” says Tami. Helping navigate the process helps those individuals get on their feet faster.
Where The Center for Independence sees a need, they find a way to meet that need. The services that are currently offered are:
- Support groups for the visually impaired
- Training for equipment for the visually and hearing impaired
- Youth support groups
- Adult service applications to assist youth in transition
- Interpreter services for deaf individuals
- Seminars on independent living topics
- Vocational programs to the people join the work force
- Housing location assistance
- Nursing home transitioning
- Recreational activities such as crafts and bowling
- Computer and technology training
- Culinary training for home and work
- Activities of daily living training
The Center for Independence offers Colorado Enterprise tax credits for donations through the Business Incubator. People are welcomed to either donate cash, items, or in-kind services for tax credits. In the past, they have received used phone equipment, copiers, furniture, and even a car. If you are looking to help by donating things such as these, CFI will warmly accept them! The Center for Independence would also like others to know that they have office space available for a far reduced cost for other nonprofit organizations. Office space can start at as little as $100 a month. In addition to office space, they also have a large gymnasium they can rent for larger events. Visit their website to learn more.
When the Center’s in-house IT provider left, they were in need of technical help. Tami has worked with Networks Unlimited through her past employer and recommended the Center give us a call. Since working with the Center for Independence, we have been able to revamp and remap their building network and provide support when needed. Networks Unlimited also provides support to the two satellite offices in Carbondale and Montrose. Tami laughed when she said, “You basically saved our hides!”