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TRPIL/Voices for Independence – Why They Do What They Do

By Lois Thomson

While focusing for so long on caregiver recruitment and marketing strategy, Steve Johnson wanted to also get back to basics when talking about TRPIL and Voices for Independence: "I want to get back to not only the nature of the caregiver position, but the nature of the organization as a whole, and what we do. But it's not just about what we do; it's about why we do it."

TRPIL stands for Transitional Paths to Independent Living, and it is dedicated to helping people with disabilities thrive. Johnson, director of marketing for TRPIL in Washington and the affiliated Voices for Independence in both Washington and Erie, talked about some of the activities designed to do that. He said in August they held their first Washington Consumer Picnic to bring everyone together. "We had food, a live DJ, a gift basket raffle, and a watermelon eating contest. This was the first major event that Voices for Independence & TRPIL have put on together in the Washington area for the people we serve. The turnout was great, we estimated more than 50 people, and with people still being tentative about COVID, I was happy. We had great feedback."

Steve Johnson, director of marketing for TRPIL and Voices for Independence, said the root issue of everything is focused on the people they serve: "Trying to make sure they're getting the best services possible; that they're able to experience life, enjoy the community, come to the building, meet with other individuals with disabilities, have a place to call a home away from home – so they have a better quality of life."

Next on the agenda is what Johnson called a Turkey Take-out, scheduled for Nov. 11. Because of COVID, the typical catered Consumer Thanksgiving Dinner is taking on a new twist. "In lieu of that we're gathering items for those who sign up, and they're going to do a drive-through. We're going to give them everything they need to create a Thanksgiving meal at home – turkey breast, stuffing, sides. We're trying to get creative and still interact with the community and bring new things to that area."

While these events are going on, Phase 2 of the Capital Campaign continues in an effort to be able to provide funding for improvements to TRPIL's new location, the former YWCA building on West Maiden St. For example, Johnson said the current site on East Beau St. has an accessible fitness center where people with disabilities can come and work out with dedicated staff, but the new one will be state-of-the-art.

Another aspect of Phase 2 will be a fully accessible training kitchen where those with disabilities can go in and learn how to prepare a meal for themselves, and it will also be used as a training kitchen for new caregivers.

Funding for the Capital Campaign comes from such events as TRPIL's 5th annual golf outing at Lone Pine Country Club in Washington. "It was very successful. We had a great turnout, great sponsors. There are certain things we have been able to accomplish lately, with the final goal of bringing this program and community center back to life as soon as humanly possible.

"Everything we've been working on has been with that goal in mind."

For more information, call 724-223-5115 or visit www.vficil.org.

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