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VFI/TRPIL – Enriching People's Lives
By Lois Thomson

The message at VFI/TRPIL is, "We're opening back up!" Steve Johnson could barely contain his enthusiasm as he talked about the Transitional Paths to Independent Living (TRPIL) and Voices for Independence (VFI) organizations re-opening after the pandemic to provide more services to people with disabilities. However, his excitement is directed not just at the services offered in the past, but also at those that are to come.

Johnson, director of marketing, talked about the Phase I work that has already been done for TRPIL to transform the former YWCA Building in Washington, PA, to allow it to house services already in place at VFI headquarters in Erie; but he added that more is to be done in Phase II.

Much of that, however, is based on the success of the capital campaign that is underway. He said TRPIL currently maintains an adaptive fitness center at its old building on Beau Street, but once the renovations take place at the YWCA, everything will be moved there. Along with a fully accessible kitchen where consumers can learn how to cook independently, the building will also have a newly revamped fitness center, and its historic auditorium will be restored.

Johnson said that until that takes place, "We're trying to get creative with events we can hold to let people know that more than just your standard services are provided here; there are things to truly enrich people's lives." A golf outing will be held Sept. 13 at Lone Pine Country Club in Washington, with the proceeds benefiting the capital campaign.

One of the activities that has re-opened at the Washington facility is the internet café. Steve Johnson described it as a "computer hub," where visitors can come in and utilize the internet, familiarizing themselves with technology they may not have available at home. "There are people on staff who are familiar with computers and with assistive technology. A consumer may come in and say a goal of theirs is to use a computer at home, and we're there to meet with them and help them along the way."

TRPIL will also be holding its first annual consumer picnic Aug. 19 for anybody who is a consumer, along with their caregiver and a guest. "We have music, activities, and a picnic planned. That's going to be a good introduction to consumers and the community at large, to show them that we're a lot more than in-home health care."

TRPIL provides five core services: Information and Referral, Advocacy, Peer Support, Independent Living Skills Training, and Transition Services, but Johnson noted that all centers for independent living offer those. "We want to go above and beyond to help be the difference between surviving and thriving. We want people to enjoy all aspects of life."

He said that is what's on the heart of Shona Eakin, CEO of both VFI and TRIPL. The organizations were born out of the idea that more has to be available, that they can close the gap between "I'm out of the nursing home – now what do I do," and "I'm living a great life, and here's why."

TRPIL's old location didn't have room to host a lot of activities, but that will change with Phase II. "Consumers receiving our services in Washington may not be used to what we have planned. When the time comes that we can introduce everything that's available – I think it's going to go over very well."

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

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