RINCON — For 21 years, Fran Todd has been trying to get people to fully embrace the opportunities of LIFE.
Living Independence for Everyone (LIFE) is a Center for Independent Living (CIL). Todd is the development director of the CIL based in Savannah, which serves 11 counties in Southeast Georgia, including Effingham.
CILs — there are nine in Georgia and more than 600 in the U.S. — are service and advocacy organizations run by and for people with disabilities, focusing on civil rights, the independent living philosophy and inclusion. All centers provide individual and systems advocacy, information and referral, peer support, independent living skills training and transition services.
“About 20 percent of the population has a disability of some sort, so that’s our target — anyone who has any type of disability or any age,” Todd said.
LIFE’s primary goal is to give the right tools to individuals with disabilities so that they can become as independent and as fully involved in their community as they desire to be. The local CIL served more than 200 individuals last year.
“That doesn’t include services we provide to the community,” Todd said. “For instance, on April 7 (from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) we will be hosting a Celebrate Abilities event at the National Guard Armory (1248 Eisenhower Drive, Savannah). For the past 20 years, I know we have done a wheelchair cleaning and we are pretty much known for doing that. But this year we wanted to make it bigger and include more people than just those with physical disabilities because our organization is a cross-disability organization, meaning we serve all types of disabilities.
“We will have probably close to 25 vendors that will be giving out information specifically for folks with different types of disabilities and we will be cleaning wheelchairs and having fun.”
LIFE’s services, including a home modification program, extend to the hearing and sight impaired. It produced a Braille version of Chatham Area Transit’s handbook through its transcription program.
“The foundation of our organization is peer support,”Todd said. “We are trying to help people navigate the world. Who is better to do it than people who have been there, done that and handled it successfully?
“It’s a peer-to-peer relationship.”
Todd said LIFE has an assisted technology outreach center.
“That’s a place where people can come and find different solutions to everyday disability-related problems,” she said. “We have a lot of different pieces that help make life easier for people with disabilities.”
The center’s items include magnifying devices, large computer keyboards and mouses for people with limited use of their hands. It even has an apparatus help put on socks.
“For us, the name of the game is to help people live as independently as they want to live,” Todd said.
Effingham County Family Connection is vital to LIFE’s efforts to serve its consumers. Todd attends meetings every other month to share and gather information from other Family Connection partners.
“Those partnerships and knowing the resources that are available is invaluable,” Todd said. “We might get a call for a service we don’t provide but now — after those meetings — I can point consumers to someone who can.”
Contact the LIFE office at 920-2414.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth story in a weekly series about organizations in Effingham County Family Connection, part of a statewide initiative that cultivates public and private collaboration at the local level. Georgia Family Connection is represented in each of the state’s 159 counties, making it the largest network of its kind in the nation. The Effingham County Board of Commissioners is the local affiliate’s fiscal agent.