Grant Funds Facilitate Ongoing Accessibility in Recreation and Jobs

The IC Fund saw nearly $75,000 awarded to five organizations. Funds were given to support community projects in line with The IC Fund goal of increasing independence for people with disabilities.

Amblicab's new wheelchair accessible van

Amblicab’s new wheelchair accessible van purchased with funds granted from The IC Fund.

Community members will benefit from these projects through ongoing accessibility in recreation, transportation and jobs. Additionally, veterans with a disability who are living in a substance abuse treatment facility will now have the dignity of showering in nicely remodeled accessible showers.
A brief description of the impact of each award is described below.

Blue Star Recyclers hard disk drive shredding system

An employee at Blue Star Recyclers operates the new hard disk drive shredding system purchased with grant funds.

Amblicab received $25,000 towards funding their new “Engage and Explore” program. This program aims to regularly transport people with disabilities to fun, recreational activities. Specifically, a wheelchair accessible minivan was purchased and is being used to get people to birthday parties, karaoke, religious services, concerts, and more. Update: Amblicab has changed their name to Envida.

Blue Star Recyclers, an award winning social enterprise that employs staff almost entirely made up of people with disabilities, used their award of $20,200 to purchase a hard disk drive shredding system. The new system allowed for employment of two new staff members with disabilities. This hard disk drive shredding system is the only local solution for data destruction in the Pikes Peak region.

Bear Creek Nature Center Songbird Trail with a woman and three young children walking towards the camera on the trail

The repaired boardwalk of Songbird Trail, a popular trail located at Bear Creek Nature Center.

Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers was awarded $20,000 to repair the boardwalk of the popular Songbird Trail located at the Bear Creek Nature Center. The new Trex planks, railing and signage made the trail easily accessible to wheelchair users, seniors, and visually impaired visitors.

New concrete ramp leading to covered picnic pavilion with small portion of red and black picnic table showing.

Covered picnic pavilion with new wheelchair accessible ramp.

Lake George Community Association used their $3,875 award to install an ADA accessible family picnic pavilion, which has made Lake George Community Park picnic area now accessible to wheelchair users.

The newly remodeled bathroom with accessible shower stall.

Five showers in disrepair at The CVRC’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans and Substance Abuse Treatment Program were fixed and made more accessible for those with physical disabilities.

Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition utilized their $5,000 award, coupled with an additional $10,000 from The Independence Center home modification fund, to fix five showers in disrepair at The CVRC’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans and Substance Abuse Treatment Program. The grant paid for the showers on the first level to be made more accessible for those with physical disabilities.]]>

Professor Regains Independence after Two Years in a Nursing Home

Dr. Jeffrey Burkhart sits casually in his living room discussing his 30 year career that encompasses teaching in four universities and two private schools. The walker next to him is the only indicator of his partial disability. A glint of pride sparkles in his eyes as he recalls a particular student’s evaluation of him at the end of a semester: Dr. Burkhart not only teaches us about French but he also teaches us that we matter.

Jeffrey Burkhart smiles fora photograph in his new apartment

Jeffrey Burkhart, a retired French professor, spent two years in a nursing home before being transitioned back into the community with help from The Independence Center.

“Unless you choose to live in a cave, you are in the ‘people business,’” he offers the oft-given admonition by his father and mother, a doctor and nurse respectively. The ‘people business’ has sustained him through four years of transitional housing. Now successfully living independently in his own apartment, he continues to seek out community with his neighbors in spite of needing to use the walker to get to them.
A retired French professor, Dr. Burkhart moved to Colorado Springs in 2007. A series of catastrophic events caused a sudden, unexpected eviction from his residence. Several days later Dr. Burkhart found himself being dropped off by cab at the doorstep of a local shelter. Because he didn’t even have enough money for cab fare, the cab driver kept his two boxes of belongings that held his only clothing, family photos and favorite books amassed throughout his career. Dr. Burkhart walked into the shelter with only the clothes on his back.
Health issues led to hospitalization, multiple surgeries and over two years in a healthcare facility. Sustained by his daily walks (utilizing his walker) along the facility corridors and visits with his resident neighbors, Dr. Burkhart sought out community inside the health care center that many people would call a nursing home. He just called it “home,” but he always knew it was temporary. The question was just how he was going to get into a position to live independently.
As one of the more independent residents, Dr. Burkhart was challenged by the facility social worker to once again enter the broader Colorado Springs community outside the comfort zone of daily corridor exercise. Walking the halls is where he met LaTesha, Community Transition Coordinator from The Independence Center (The IC). The rest is history, as they say, but it’s a history that’s still being written as Dr. Burkhart is regaining his independence through the Community Transition Services of The Independence Center.
LaTesha and the Community Transition Services team from The IC came along side Dr. Burkhart and moved him into his own apartment in July of 2015. By choice, his new apartment is just down the street from the healthcare center. He still gets his exercise going next door to walk the corridors and visit his neighbors in the healthcare center. But now instead of retiring to a small room he goes home to his comfortable first floor one-bedroom apartment.
Transitioning from life in a healthcare facility to independent living on his own is a passage that Dr. Burkhart doesn’t gloss over. Dr. Burkhart’s advice to others going through similar transitions is, “Be true to yourself and maintain the ties.” Intentionality about the ‘people business’ and Community Transitions Services provided by The Independence Center have given Dr. Burkhart a successful reentry to independent living. He’s even doing some of what he did for thirty years: giving French lessons in his apartment. He smiles and says, “It’s getting back to where I feel like I am part of society again.”

Press Release: Community Rallies to Find Lost Leprechaun

wheelchair handle, the seven-foot tall painted wooden leprechaun is unharmed. Thanks to the Colorado Springs community for being on the lookout, “Lucky” will again be part of The Independence Center’s display.

Lucky the Leprechaun on The Independence Center St Patrick's Day Float

Lucky the Leprechaun was constructed with help from Springs Rescue Mission and debuted in 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade

“Lucky” was preparing to take the spotlight on Saturday as part of The Independence Center’s St. Patrick’s Day parade float. He was being stored in employee Marie Bryan’s backyard. “Lucky” was constructed with help from Springs Rescue Mission and had debuted in the 2014 parade.
After reporting “Lucky” missing over the weekend, Bryan started a campaign calling local businesses near her home from where he had been stolen. She placed “missing” signs and knocked on doors of local businesses asking for people to keep their eyes out for “Lucky.”
“That’s one thing about Colorado Springs, is that we really have a huge sense of community here. We all have each other’s backs. Everyone was willing to look,” Bryan said of the effort to find the missing leprechaun.
Bryan even received a call from Colorado Sheet Metal Training Institute, offering to provide additional items for The Independence Center’s St. Patrick’s Day float.
“Lucky” isn’t an ordinary leprechaun. He is depicted as riding in a sky blue wheelchair. For this reason, Bryan is thankful for “Lucky” being found.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in a wheelchair; it doesn’t matter what type of disability you have. You can still get out and have fun and participate in things in your community. Participation in this parade is a big thing for consumers of The Independence Center. That’s why we got into the parade into the first place, because we’re not any different even though we may have disabilities,” Bryan said.
“I think having a leprechaun in a wheelchair demonstrates inclusion for all of us,” offered Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center.]]>

Press Release: The IC Teams Up with American Red Cross for Winter Weather Emergency Training for Local Residents

th St, Calhan, CO 80808 on January 29, 2016 from 1:00–2:00 PM. The presentations are free to residents. Residents who want to attend are encouraged to RSVP to About The Independence Center The Independence Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides traditional and self-directed home health care, independent living, and advocacy services for people with disabilities.  These services range from providing peer support, skills classes, and employment assistance to individual and systems advocacy. In addition, The IC runs a Certified Nurse Aide school to equip the area with qualified CNAs. The IC’s mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community to create independence so all may thrive.]]>

“Lives Worth Living” Documentary Influential at Community Celebration

th at Stargazers Theatre. The ADA Celebration included a silent auction with items donated from around the community, a screening of the PBS documentary “Lives Worth Living” and local heroes involved in the Disability Rights movement sharing their stories.

“This was a community building event and I appreciate all of our hard work together to create this community,” CEO of The Independence Center, Patricia Yeager said.
“Lives Worth Living,” which depicts the history of the Disability Rights Movement to the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was screened at the event. Following the inspirational film, some participants involved in the movement shared their stories.
“During the movie, you could hear a pin drop,” Yeager said. “I think maybe people did not realize what a recent and rich history we have across the country.  We are not alone!”
While the silent auction was successful, the movie and speakers stole the show. The speakers, all local participants in the Disability Rights Movement, shared their experiences and struggles during the time the ADA was being fought for. Anita Pope, one of the speakers of the night, shared her thoughts on how the event went.
“I think it was really good for people to see this movie, because the people that are out in the community now that have access that wasn’t available back then. Especially younger people know, they have no idea what it was like and they are enjoying the fruits of those people’s labors. I tell my kids stories all the time and they can’t believe how much has changed,” Pope said.
The three speakers highlighted experiences shared in the film. Matthew Ruggles recounted walking in the Deaf President Now Marches and the power of seeing someone who was Deaf elected to lead Gallaudet University. Pope commented on ADAPT’s work in Colorado Springs and in larger marches in San Francisco. Billy Allen, who is the 504 Coordinator for Memorial Health System, spoke about what still needs to be done within the ADA to make it truly benefit people with disabilities.
“It’s really good for people to see the hard work that the disability community had to go through to make things as good as they are right now. It might not be perfect, but it’s so much better,” Pope said.

Calhan Outreach Coalition

Calhan Outreach Coalition. The Coalition is a member based organization that is working towards establishing the St. Paul Community Outreach Center (COC). Established in 2009, the COC will serve the surrounding communities of eastern El Paso County and has an opportunity to build on land adjacent to the St. Paul Lutheran Church. The COC will be a safe and supportive environment that will encourage and empower the entire community. The COC along with partnering agencies will be able to offer the following services to the community; outreach to seniors and youth, a computer lab, emergency assistance, information and referral, parenting and awareness classes and a community room.

Agencies like The IC will be able to use The COC as a satellite location in the community. The COC will serve as a vital resource for the communities of Calhan, Peyton, Ramah, Falcon, Ellicott, Hanover, Edison, Miami Yoder, Elbert, Elizabeth, Simla, Matheson, and Limon. The COC is currently negotiating with El Paso County to discuss utilizing the El Paso County fairgrounds as a satellite office until the Center is built.

Back in 2011 the Calhan Outreach Coalition collaborated on the Education and Health fair to provide information to the community and raise awareness of The COC. Besides writing grants, ongoing fundraisers including three golf tournaments, have taken place to raise funds for The St. Paul Community Out-reach Center. For more information on the St. Paul Community Outreach Center or becoming a member of the Calhan Outreach Coalition, please contact Calvin or Patty Jolly at or 719-347-2662.