Celebrating 25 Years
Moving Forward, We've Come A Long Way Baby! - Part VI
By Shelby Butler, Access Coordinator
As 2011 ended, we looked back to our 25 year history in celebration at our Annual Meeting in December. We’ve come a long way from our beginnings in the 1980’s and that foundation and roots made us strong. As we look ahead at 2012 our determination will keep us moving forward another 25 years to continue our quest to create change in the community.
Ten years ago when I started at the Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL), we had only a handful of staff to serve the needs of consumers. We have worked hard over the years to develop strong relationships with local organizations, businesses and individuals and to create lasting collaborations.
Ann Morris, former Executive Director and founder of SCIL said when thinking back, "That first year after we opened I wasn’t thinking very far in the future, but was really busy getting the word out about who we were and the services we had and just trying to build something I knew was important."
The past few years, staff has grown and SCIL has become more known in the community. Last year alone, staff spent 892 hours representing people with disabilities in various community action partnerships.
From Access Specialist to Public Policy Advocate and now Access Coordinator, I have worked hard to maintain SCIL’s visibility to our elected officials, local business owners and service providers to keep them engaged and to advocate for people with disabilities. I have also seen that having a presence in rural communities is more important than ever before because access to vital services for people with disabilities in those areas are limited and barriers continue to persist.
Chief Executive Officer at SCIL since 2006, Gary E. Maddox has built on the foundation laid way back in 1985. “I knew when I came to SCIL that our success ultimately would depend on everyone buying into the vision of adding more services and concentrating on empowering consumers,” he said. “To accomplish these goals, we needed the increase community and consumer involvement in the cause. That is the direction we took and see success in today.”
Recently we held a training on effective communication and wrote letters to Washington, D.C. to protect funding for services and programs for people with disabilities to stay independent. We will continue to work to break down the barriers people with disabilities face and promote equal access for all.
Today, I am now more equipped with the education I need to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities through the legislative process and prepared to work alongside each person to advocate for their needs. The past two years I have assisted consumers in leading the monthly LOOP (Legislative Organizing Opportunities Project) group meetings to teach them how to effectively self-advocate.
The Missouri General Assembly will begin their spring session January 4th. As you start the New Year, make a point to introduce yourself to your elected officials and drop them a note letting them know you are following their work at the capital. Please take time to personally thank Senator Bob Dixon and Representative Sara Lampe for their service to our state. Both were recognized as “Legislator of the Year” at the SCIL 2011 Annual Meeting.
Senator Dixon was instrumental in protecting the rights of people with disabilities during 2010-2011 when assessments for home and community based services were delayed. SynCare, the third party assessor, did a poor job and many people went without services, were forced to remain in nursing homes and waited long periods of time for changes to their plans of care. Our advocacy efforts were successful to end the contract with SynCare.
Representative Lampe will start her eighth year of service to the state and her work with the Budget Committee helps protect people with disabilities. She has been a strong ally and has voiced concerns that have helped protect money for Centers for Independent Living when funding cuts were on the table that would hurt Missourians with disabilities. Her office is always welcoming to SCIL and constituents.Thank you to Senator Dixon, Representative Lampe and each of our legislators who travel to Jefferson City to represent all of us.
In addition SCIL recognized a leader in self-advocacy at the annual meeting. William Stork received the “Grassroots Advocate of the Year” award for his mentorship and efforts to make change for people with disabilities. William leads the SCIL Consumer Advisory Committee and is a committed member of LOOP. You can often find him in our volunteer room researching legislative topics, writing letters or lending peer support to other self advocates.
The Annual Meeting celebrated our beginning, our successes and our future. We have come a long way baby, but we have so much more to do! Please join us in offering choices and empowerment for people with disabilities. For more information about self-advocacy, attending LOOP or about the center call 417-886-1188 or visit www.swcil.org.
2011 Annual Meeting Awards