A Spotlight on the Community Independence Program

An Interview done by Jess Maiuro, Marketing and Development Assistant, with the Consumers and Staff at Community Independence Program (CIP)

“I’ve always loved working with this population because I feel like it’s meaningful work. It’s so meaningful and not just a job. This is our family, in a sense. We see each other more than our own families and I consider them to be like my brothers and sisters,” says Tony.

The program is managed by a dedicated staff of people including Tony, CIP Coordinator who’s been with Independent Living Inc. (ILI) for 10 years. Tony began his career at ILI when he was 16 years old, working as a Peer Educator for the after-school program before returning to CIP in his adulthood. “In the Community Independent Program (CIP), we work with each individual on their personal set goals. Healthcare, personal safety, money management, socialization, recreation, and community integration. Each person works on 2 goals per day and then we tailor the activities around the goals.”

“We do a lot of fun things,” says Heidi, a consumer in the Community Independence Program.

Heidi has achieved health goals with Tony, including weight loss. She’s also learning to improve her interpersonal skills and how to redirect her emotions into something positive. As Heidi shares her achievements, another CIP consumer named Marianna is practicing writing down her home address in case of emergency as part of her personal safety goals.

Heidi has come to CIP four times a week for nearly 15 years. When asked what some of her favorite activities offered in the program are, she lights up, and shares that community volunteer work like home meal delivery, park outings and visiting stores are some of her favorites. What stands out most to ILI with Heidi—and is a shared sentiment among her CIP peers is that most of them have known each other since they were kids and that CIP creates a strong feeling of community.

Photo of Jen, wearing a pink shirt and brown jacket, her short brown hair pushed back with a headband. She is smiling in front of a bulletin board.Jennifer, pictured left, a CIP consumer for 22 years, has worked with job coaches at ILI to find employment. She’s worked at GoodWill and Walgreen’s for over 7 years. ILI job coaches can also help carve out pathways to employment even if there isn’t necessarily a job posting. Job coaches are known to advocate on behalf of consumers and meet with local business owners to learn if there are opportunities to create positions for consumers at places that are a good fit.

 “All of the employees I see here at ILI are wonderful people. And also I like having my friends here sitting around where I can have a conversation with them,” says Jennifer. “When I started here I was mean. Now I’m more open and nicer.”

David, the resident artist of the group who’s known to draw portraits of ILI staff, shares that his favorite activities are home meal delivery,Crayon drawing by David of Shawenicwa, Job Coach. Shawenicwa is wearing a pink shirt with black pants and shoes; her eyes are big with excitement. volunteering, outings to the park, and pizza parties. Another crowd favorite? Zumba and yoga. CIP recently partnered with the Desmond Center at Mount Saint Mary College for chair yoga and gentle yoga classes held twice per month. Heidi says she’s learned effective breathing techniques to help her calm down.

Another favorite activity is a cooking club. The program participates with the Clynk program, dropping off recyclable bottles at Hannaford’s Supermarket, to fund the club. During cooking club consumers learn how to prepare healthy snacks and some of the funding goes towards food for holiday parties and pizza Fridays.

“This program is very important for this population to be with other individuals like them, to work on activities together, and that helps them be their best selves,” says Tony.

Heidi says, “I’m working on learning independence. Tony and the staff help me a lot. It’s a work in progress.”

Entering the CIP program and interacting with the staff and consumers feels like a warm hug. The strong sense of community and inclusion is apparent right from the start. As we acknowledge Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month during March, let’s continue to highlight the many ways in which people with and without disabilities can come together to bridge barriers and form strong diverse communities where all can thrive.


About Independent Living Inc.’s Community Independence Program:

The Community Independence Program (CIP) is a day habilitation Home and Community Based Service (HCBS) waiver program for adults with disabilities operated under Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The waiver service enables states to tailor services to meet the needs of a particular target group. The service provided is Day Habilitation. The CIP team provides guidance and support to the participants in working on valued outcome goals that will assist them in becoming more independent and integrated within their communities. This aligns with Independent Living’s (ILI) vision of a barrier-free society for all persons to achieve their maximum potential.

 The Community Independence Program (CIP) provides purposeful and meaningful activities that are designed to promote choice, self-determination, and total participation. Our participants are monitored and provided with specific skills training ranging from personal healthcare to personal safety and the development of social and communication skills. We also offer community-based life skills and service activities such as money management skills, volunteer work, exercise, leisure, and recreational peer activities. Our ultimate aim is to empower each member to take the necessary steps in order to realize their fullest capabilities and assist them in becoming the best version of themselves.