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Connecting People to Opportunities

posted by Bonnie Kipper on Friday, June 7, 2024

Since our transition to My Life, My Way we have witnessed persons served access the community in more ways than ever before. We have found person served find the most pride and value when they are giving back to their community. 

Volunteering has become a top priority for person served for many reasons, not only are folks giving back and helping others, they are building real, natural relationships.

Full of pride ourselves, we watch person served from the sidelines, carrying on conversations with their fellow co-workers, volunteers, church-goers, and new friends we wouldn't have met without this opportunity. Instead of turning to an EPI staff to ask a question or find support, people are turning into the networks they have built in their own lives. That in of itself is quite the development.

Historically person served were surrounded by other like individuals and direct support professionals in facility-like settings. Today, you'll find the people we support building friendships with many different types of people throughout the community in a variety of environments. The type of relationships some of us might take for granted, are everything to person served.

We are seeing a shift in the societal perception of a person living with a disability. Today person served are balancing life responsibilities with work, volunteering and a social life. We are seeing all people being valued for their abilities, what they offer the other side of those relationships, and in facilitating success of the community as a whole.

We continue to see our mission in action and could not be more pleased as we continue to connect people, create opportunities and nurture growth throughout the Cedar Valley.

Let me leave you with this heartwarming story, depicting why we transitioned to a service enhancement like My Life, My Way.

John is a middle aged male living with a significant intellectual disability. He has spent his adult life living with his mother and attending a facility based day habilitation program for about 15 years. John shared during this time his greatest excitement was going on Saturday adventures with his hourly support staff.

His social network consisted of his mother, brother, nieces and nephews he would see during the holidays, his weekend support staff, day habilitation support staff and other individuals that attended the same program. John was quiet and kind to others, but really kept himself independently entertained.

When John's mother passed away, he moved into a home with other individuals served by EPI. As John was navigating his new normal, he struggled to make new friends, continued to keep to himself, completed his daily routines, but now his days became exploring and enjoying his community.

As he explored all this wonderful community has to offer, John began volunteering at the Salvation Army food give-away in Waterloo. He enjoyed the activity and was excelling within! In that time we noticed John began to make life long connections and have more and more self-led conversations and relied less and less on his paid support staff.

Shortly thereafter he was asked to consider looking for a job. His only stipulation was to be able to still volunteer at the Salvation Army.

Today, John has been employed for 4 years, volunteers regularly and is able to keep an active social life with our enhanced My Life, My Way activities to choose from. He reports to be happy, healthy and living the life he has built with the people he has chosen.

About The Author

Community Services Director