Independence Inc. is celebrating its 30th year with a community breakfast Tuesday.
The public is invited to Maceli's,
1031 N.H., for a free breakfast.
To make a reservation, contact Meghan Kinley at 841-0333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Independence Inc., which provides services for people with disabilities, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
"For the last 30 years, Independence Inc. has been a catalyst for change," said Ranita Wilks, independent living skills and peer counseling specialist.
Wilks cited the housing and transportation programs the Lawrence agency started as examples of the first of such services in the community.
"No housing at that time in Lawrence was similar to that," Wilks said.
Today, the wheelchair-accessible transportation service offers more than 800 rides a month, and the two sites of accessible housing are still some of the most functional for people living with disabilities in the community, Wilks said.
Beginning this fall, Independence Inc., 2001 Haskell Ave., which serves approximately 1,000 people, will add another one-of-a-kind, youth employment program.
"I see the youth employment program as a continuation of us expanding and developing those (services) to meet the needs of our community, and also an extension of us partnering with others in the community," Wilks said.
Wilks helped initiate the two-year program, an idea spurred by the agency's participation in the annual National Disability Mentoring Day.
"We decided we'd like to expand it and make career development not be just once a year for our students with disabilities," she said.
Independence Inc. partnered with the Lawrence School District to identify 10 high school students "with severe disabilities," such as cognitive limitations or emotional disabilities, she said.
In September, the students are expected to begin working for at least two months at local business and nonprofit organizations.
Wilks is hopeful the program will alleviate the lack of opportunities for younger people with disabilities who often end up "with a lifetime of poverty," she said.
"Kids will get to try all these different careers and jobs to find out what their strengths are and what they need to work on when they seek" employment, she said. "We're building connections with the community as well as self-esteem-building for the students who are going to participate."
A counseling service for the clients has also expanded to full time and has been under way since May, said Meghan Kinley, development director.
Kinley said community involvement has been vital to the organization's growth.
"We look forward to spending the next three decades continuing to work together to make our community the best place for people with disabilities to live, learn and work," Kinley said.