By the time you read this, I will have officially retired after 10 years as CEO of The Independence Center. Ten years! How did that happen? Before coming to The IC, I had never been in a position that long. There was just something about this organization, its mission, its people, and the people we serve that made me excited to come to work, day after day, year after year.
In 2011, I walked into an organization that had grown so much from its beginnings. Vicki Skoog and her late husband, Ted, founded The IC in 1987 as a consumer-directed and led home health agency. Their goal was to provide personal care that would allow people with disabilities of all ages to live independently at home.
This model built the economic engine that became the foundation of this nonprofit. Funds from home health and other fee-for service programs allow The IC to provide life-changing services through our Center for Independent Living. I cannot emphasize how innovative this model is and how many lives we’ve been able to touch because of it.
When I arrived, The IC’s rapid growth meant that it needed to both modernize its systems and shift its focus more toward independent living and disability civil rights. Together with an incredible, dedicated team, we revamped existing programs, started new programs, offered new services, almost doubled our staff, remodeled our building, and purchased an additional building when we outgrew the first one.
At the same time we were creating change inside the organization, we were also making waves in the community. We barked, hollered, and made lots of noise to draw attention to the needs of our disability community. More importantly, we empowered individuals with disabilities to do the same. The IC, alongside passionate and determined citizen-advocates, created lots of “good trouble” to ensure that there is “nothing about us without us.” I often say that when I first arrived in Colorado Springs, the Americans with Disabilities Act seemed to have stopped at the Palmer Divide. But boy! How things have changed!
Ten years after I first walked through The IC’s doors, I’m so proud of how the community has demanded and received more and better accessibility in public transportation, housing, public buildings, health care, and emergency preparation planning. The City of Colorado Springs has an ADA office of four or more staff that is actively working on an ADA transition
plan. El Paso County is doing the same, having just announced the funding of the ADA self evaluation that leads to an ADA Plan. Other cities and counties in the region are looking to our local governments as a model to follow. I think the Southern Colorado “accessibility ship” has turned and is going in the right direction.
What an immense honor and pleasure it has been to be a part of such seismic change.
Now it’s time for more change as our own Indy Frazee steps into the CEO position. The board and the staff are delighted/tickled/breathing a sigh of relief that she is taking this role. She started with us seven years ago as our Chief Financial Officer. She then went on to lead and grow our Home Health division, which includes the Veteran in Charge and Hospital2Home programs.
Indy is smart, energetic, and strategic, and she understands our organization inside and out. More than that, though, she is as passionate about our mission as I am and I know that she won’t miss a beat as she leads The IC to even bigger and better things.
As for me, I will be here through the end of the year assisting in the transition and then I plan to take some time to relax, travel, and just “be.” I’ll be staying here in the Springs so if you see me out and about, come up and say hi!
I want to close this final CEO Corner by saying thank you. Thank you to the staff, community leaders, local advocates, our partners, our board, our consumers, and our clients who have created so much needed change. Thank you for helping turn my early vision into a reality. Thank you for growing The IC and our community in ways I could only have imagined a decade ago. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making these last 10 years so rewarding.
What a ride it’s been!