Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Utah non-profit for people with intellectual disabilities hopes to continue to grow after successful first year

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

After celebrating its recent first anniversary, the Utah Association for Intellectual Disabilities hopes to continue to grow as it provides new opportunities for its clients. The nonprofit, which formed in the wake of the closure of the Arc of Utah, estimates that it served about 1,000 disabled Utahns in its inaugural year.

"In a nutshell, we're the party girls," said Joyce Whalen, the president of the board.

Run entirely by volunteers, UAID has offered social events at their Salt Lake City office ranging from board game nights to watercolor classes. Rent and utilities for the space, at 1453 S Major St., are paid for by a volunteer. To raise additional funds this week, they held a chalk art project in Draper, with donors purchasing a sidewalk square to sponsor its decoration.

One of the nonprofit's goals is to provide resources to people beyond fundamental needs such as housing, transit and medical help, which many other groups already assist with.

Parents said "what we also need is something that allows [the disabled] to socialize with others and gives them a sense of inclusion," Whalen said.

Their programs are open to any eligible disabled person, regardless of income level.

Jesse Rogers has seen his clients thrive at association events.

"They provide a little bit of an escape," said Rogers, who is a job coach with North Eastern Services, a provider of services for the disabled. "They're experiencing friendship with their own teams and with the people that [UAID] brings in."

For the families, another benefit is the activities away from home. "If it's someone living at home, it provides the primary caregiver with a bit of respite time," Whalen said.

The association's other programs include refurbishing donated computers and providing them to disabled clients. It also plans to develop more employment opportunities.

One of the Arc's most popular programs, the Holiday Gift Box, has continued under the new association, which last year provided more than 500 low-income disabled Utahns with presents ranging from coats and socks to cheer.

Although the organization relies on donations, its partnership with Thrift Town in Utah helps generate income. The company gives a portion of donations' value to UAID.

Glen Switzer, of Salt Lake City, is immensely grateful for the help UAID has provided to his family. Unemployed since February 2009, the former warehouse driver didn't know how he would handle the holidays. "They made sure we had both Thanksgiving and a Christmas dinner," he said. "And at Christmas there were presents for the kids to open."

He described himself as embarrassed and speechless. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't know what to do," Switzer said.