You can hear Chris Thomas before you see him. His laugh is loud, genuine and contagious. Thomas’ entire aura is one of positivity and light-heartedness. Though he’s experienced many things, Thomas doesn’t seem to let the outside world affect him. Years ago, Thomas was in a car accident that resulted in traumatic brain injury. The accident completely changed the course Thomas’ life. He was in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities before he finally was able to live on his own.

Once on his own, Thomas struggled financially. Acquiring a job was difficult with his disability, so income was minimal. However, Thomas found a resource that has helped many individuals with disabilities over the years: The Independence Center. Jeff H., our benefits coordinator, assisted Thomas in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), even accompanying Thomas to the Social Security building to assist in the paperwork process. Not only did Henderson help Thomas acquire SSDI, but food stamps and transportation through Amblicab as well.

“To watch Chris leave the sheltered environment of his home and return to society by overcoming his disability should inspire others to reach out and determine their own paths,” Henderson said.

Benefit assistance was just one stepping stone in Thomas’ journey to independence. After working with Thomas, Henderson introduced him to Kevin C., our peer mentor specialist and facilitator of the traumatic brain injury (TBI) support group. Through this introduction, Thomas and Corrigan formed a relationship that led to a path of self-advocacy and growth.

“Chris has truly come out of his shell,” Kevin said. “Rather than isolating himself in his apartment, he enjoys taking Metro Mobility to do his own shopping, pursuing his passion for cars, and regularly participating in our TBI support group.”

Thomas is now moving on to yet another resource here: employment. He has started working with our employment coordinator. Thomas is a prime example of what a self-advocate for independence is and how far an individual can come with determination and a great attitude.

“If I hadn’t started coming to The Independence Center then I wouldn’t have much of a life, “Thomas said. “It’s better to give than receive, and I feel like the Independence Center has given me so much.”