Letter to the Editor


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To the editor:

Semo Alliance for Disability Independence is a non-profit, non-residential independent living center. It will be hosting its third annual auction on May 22 at Rainbow Auction in Jackson. Over the next four weeks, businesses and retailers and even private citizens will be called upon for donations of merchandise, gift certificates or whatever else they would like to contribute to make this annual fund-raising even successful. I realize that many businesses are solicited all year by fund-raising advocates from all over the area, and pockets only run so deep. However, over the past two years our organization has been amazed and blessed by the benevolence of individuals and area businesses in Southeast Missouri. Some businesses are new this year, and it is for this reason I wanted to take time to identify what our center does and how money collected from proceeds of the auction are spent.

We are funded to provide independent living services under Title 7 of the Rehabilitation Act through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. By the end of 1977, there will be 20 such centers all over Missouri. Our center was incorporated in 1987 and received funding to open in 1993, mandated by government regulations to provide information and referral, independent living skills training, peer support and advocacy free to all persons with disabilities without regard to type of disability and without exclusion whatsoever. We have an assistive technology center and a personal attendant care program. Our consumers have ranged from ages 3 months to over 90 years old and come from a five-county area, with the majority of consumers coming from Cape Girardeau County. Over 51 percent of persons with disabilities must be employed by the center, and we are governed by a board consisting of 51 percent people with disabilities. Who better to serve persons with disabilities than those who have successfully achieved their independence in their community? And who better to develop programs for persons with disabilities than those who have experience with a disability?

Program development must come from community support dollars. Project Access is our community-service program to aid in home modifications which include, but are not limited to, building ramps into homes, lowering shelves or counters and widening doorways of homes so that individuals with disabilities do not have to go into a nursing home but can live independently in their own homes, either alone or with family members. Most of our consumers are on fixed incomes, and many have no insurance and no family support. Many of our consumers are disabled as a result of vehicle or home accidents, and we work with rehabilitation centers across the state to help individuals who must learn to live in their homes and need continued support when they return to their communities after rehabilitation.

There is a cost for materials and labor involved in providing home modifications. We have appealed to many for volunteer help to do the building as well as donating materials for these projects, but we have not succeeded in this venture. Anyone who has done a little home remodeling knows the costs are not cheap. Our previous auctions have raised a few thousand dollars, but we need to increase this level of attainment. That is why we need your help, because we will have to pay extensively for materials and labor if this program is to succeed.

One last thought: Many civic and other organizations in the area seek to raise funds to help children or the elderly with disabilities, and although there are many children and elderly we provide services to, our main disabled population consists of adults from ages 18 to 55. These individuals fall through the cracks, because more dollars are spent to help children develop into adults than helping adults to continue their quest to live independently. Most persons with disabilities are disabled for life, and most of these disabilities are the result of accidents and late-in-life diseases. This fact can be ascertained by big names like Christopher Reeve and Annette Funnicello, but the people we serve are not famous, just important. The money does not go into research but goes into the hear of a disabled person's existence, their ability to live like anyone else in the community. If you don't believe it, spend a day with us at the center and see what we are talking about. We have success stories, but we have many more stories without a good beginning or a happy ending yet. When we come to you for help this month, be as generous as you can. It will be so humbly appreciated. You can help us to help others, maybe even someone you know.

MARYANN "MIKI" GUDERMUTH, Executive Director

Semo Alliance for Disability Independence

Cape Girardeau