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The Greatest Human Dignity

*By Richard, Independent Living Consumer

Independent Living, Inc. – this name says it all. The greatest human dignity you can give aperson regardless of their age or condition is to help them be as independent as possible.This is the hope that has been given to me now that I am working with Independent Living.

I grew up traveling to national parks and enjoying nature. A few years ago, I was in a really great place – what I’d describe as a precious and fulfilling moment in my life. My family let me take our dog to Killington, Vermont. It was just us two. I remember the feeling of total independence.

Shortly after my trip I experienced a mental health crisis. I was hospitalized. What people do not realize is that mental illness can be a traumatic experience. I was trying to communicate my needs to people, but I could not; people did not understand and I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone and I could not have my needs met. I received medication and was stabilized, but living a full life is more than stabilization and medication.

After I was stabilized, I connected with multiple different service agencies. They all servedme along the way. It wasn’t until I got to independent living that I truly felt hope again.

I work with Jessica Andino in the Independent Living Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program. Jessica never treated me like a patient or beggar; she treated me with dignity and respect and listened to me about who I am, where I am and where I want to be.

Through working with Jessica, I was able to attain a job, understand my benefits, and confidently advocate for myself in the workplace and life. I was awarded more hours and, though that offsets my benefits, I am comfortable making more money because it is helping me reach a place where I am feeling more independent again.

I have a plan now. I am working toward a future and goals again. The job that I attained offers paid vacation time. I am working to attain a PASS plan – Plan to Achieve Self-Support. Through this, I will be able to pay my bills comfortably and afford myself things I need to achieve my goals. Soon, I will be able to take a paid vacation and achieve my lifelong dream of visiting the Olympic Village. There is more to do in life. Independent Living is helping me experience those things.

It is my honor to thank Independent Living, Jessica Andino, Janae Myers and all of the other staff along the way who have helped me get here and share my story with you. I am now a Peer Specialist and want to continue to give back what Independent Living has given to me.

When you support Independent Living, you are supporting me. You are supporting peoplelike me. It is critical to us. It is a gift helping me move forward in my life.