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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Civil Rights, Disabilities, Disabled Persons Rights, Human Services

Mission: IndependenceFirst is a non-profit agency directed by, and for the benefit of, persons with disabilities. We primarily serve the four county metro Milwaukee area.  Our vision is for full inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of our community.  With over 20 programs to benefit independent living and access for people with disabilities, we serve thousands each year.  We’re the community’s FIRST resource when they have questions about disability and access, answering nearly 6,000 information and referral calls each year.  We serve people with all kinds of disability, in all age groups.  Over 51% of our staff, managers and Board have disabilities themselves.

Target demographics: People with disabilities of all kinds, in all age groups.  Family members or other service providers who are interested in independent living for people with disabilities.  Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties primarily, but some statewide programs.

Geographic areas served: Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties primarily, some statewide programs

Programs: Advocacy - individual and Systemic, Assistive Technology Consultation, Independent Living Skills training for youth and adults, Benefits & Employment Counseling, Job Club, Peer Support, Information & Referral, Accessibility Consultation, Counseling & Services for Victims of Abuse who have disabilities, Personal Assistance Services, Attendant Referral, Wheelchair Sports & Adaptive Recreation for Youth and Adults, Youth Leadership Training and Skill Building, and MUCH MORE!

Community Stories

7 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It is intrisically rewarding being a volunteer with Independence First. The organization empowers individuals with disabilities to live with dignity, have control over their lives, and to make decisions. As a volunteer, I have interacted with indviduals who have overcome challenges with grace and dignity. I do not see these individuals any different than myself. They are capable of doing the same project but just perform the project in a different way. Independent First provides people with the disabilities to participate in the communityby assisting with devices that provide them the mobilty to get around the community.

The first day I volunteered, I saw the cohesiveness with the staff and volunteers. I don't know many people who could say that about the company or business they work for. All anyone wants is to be respected and acknowledged for the work they do each day. You can definitely see how much Independence First values the contribution people with disabilities bring to the community.

DMueller

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Independence First makes a large differance in the lives of people with disability's and low income, through our CRP we can give individuals a computer at no cost to them.The computer refurbishing program has grown from giving out 25 computers a year to over350 per year in the time I've been 2x a week voulnteer at Independence First in MIlwaukee. When we give a free computer to someone with a disability it has been noted over and over the computer is used by all the family and others in the neighborhood. So one computer helps the grandkids who do not have to go in early to school to use a computer to finish their homework, and the uncle who is looking for work and cannot travel to the unemplyment office due to a lack of money,

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a volunteer for Independence First. I am there a minimum of 2 days a month. If there are special projects that need to be done I always try to fit them in also. It is one of my favorite places to volunteer. They have an excellent volunteer cooridnator who makes it a pleasant place to work. I feel that the services that Independence First provides to their clients are essential to their well being and staying independent. As far as a place to work it really is state of the art for being handicapped accessible. I hope to be able to volunteer there for many years to come. Rachel Jones (racheljones@earthlink.net) 2earthlink.net

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Independence First is an organization dedicated to helping others help themselves and its robust, vibrant volunteer program expands its reach even further into Milwaukee and surrounding communities. As a Consumer Volunteer, I have directly witnessed the organization's impact: first, by aligning clients with my services and second, by giving additional supports as needed. (For example, I work with a client in need of sight aides. An Independence First representative met with the client to arrange for the tool to be provided.) This is true customer service and compassionate business practice combined.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

For close to 30 years I was a Homemaker & Mother until one day my Husband announced He wanted a Divorce. I had learned to be Strong because of a disability I've had since my Childhood, I survived Polio, I learned the Ignorance of people for what they didn't understand because nothing had touched their lives in the same manner but when my Oldest son lost his hearing to Spinal Meningitis my protective side kicked in, but it wasn't until I had a severe Stroke that I became acquainted with Independence First. They took me from I can't to I Can through their vigilance and taught me that I was far more able then I thought that I was. I listened at first to too many saying to me, You can't do that anymore, I made a big mistake & bought into that thinking probably because it was easier & not as much of a challenge, It was easier to buy into passive thinking but I had the opportunity trainwith my Service Dog, Gambler, but I has to travel to California to make that happen. I mustered all my Yes I can's together and decided that Here are people who believe in me ,. Maybe I can do this, and you know what I did do it & I survived. a feeling of Joy came over me, My life hadn't passed me by, I just learned that U had to maybe do things a little different but I could Do it!! What a feeling of Joy & self worth it has given me to have people at Independence First BELIEVE IN ME, FROM THE Independent Living Coordinators TO THE DIRECTOR, they BELIEVED. Sometimes that's all you need, Someone to believe in you, to see your cap[abilities not just your challenges. I have grown immensely because of these people & would be willing to do anything for them.Yes Life is great because I have an army of believers on my side Yes they helped me to refined who I am & show me self Empowerment. Thank You Independence First I'll TAKE A BUS TO YOUR FACILITY ANYTIME EVEN THOUGH IT ONCE FRIGHTENED THE BEJEEBERS OUT OF ME. KEEP UP ALL OF THE Outstanding Work that you do You are Stellar in my book

fredkn

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We take in and refurbish computers from companies and individuals. We give clients or consumers with a disability and low income a chance to have a free computer, mouse, keyboard and monitor.Those are the only two requirements for receiving a computer. Last year we have almost reached 300 given away. We could do more but we are almost entirely staffed by volunteers doing the program work with some support from the paid staff at Independence First.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have participated at IndependenceFirst for many years. Over those years I have seen tremendous growth in programs, staffing, individuals served and other evidence of a vibrant nonprofit. But the greatest strength of IndependenceFirst is the commitment to mission and values. That commitment transcends its program area, and provides leadership and support for people with disabilities on a statewide, national and international level.