“I’ll Retire When I Die”
Mary Moore has been working at the Center for Independence (CFI) since October 1st, 1998. Twenty years at the same job may not seem so remarkable until you realize that Mary is a person born with Cerebral Palsy. As a person with a disability, Mary has carved out a meaningful and important place for herself in the workforce. She is the American’s with Disabilities Act Specialist and an Independent Living Advocate at CFI.
A highly educated person, Mary has a Bachelor’s degree in Cinema-Television with divisional honors from USC. Mary also has a Masters degree in Library Science with an emphasis in archives from Simmons College in Boston. Her original goal was to become a Film Archivist. Mary believes she would have been successful in that career. So how did Mary end up working for a non-profit, helping people with disabilities?
She was living in California and wanted a change. After praying about it for some time, Mary was guided to move to Colorado and more specifically Grand Junction. Her family was tremendously supportive and they all took a train trip to Grand Junction. They left the train station and went directly to the Center for Independence. Mary had never seen or heard of an Independent Living Center like CFI, and she was very impressed. Four months later two staff members from CFI came to Mary’s home and asked her if she would like to work at the center. They invited her to apply for a job co-facilitating a new program for Youth with Disabilities.
Twenty years later Mary is in charge of CFI’s PACT (Positive Access to Community Transitions) program – An educational program for young people with disabilities. The program’s goal it to help the young people become independent as they can be by their own definition of independence. It is a peer support group where the issues of social acceptance or rejection of people with disabilities is openly discussed.
How does it feel to have worked at CFI for 20 years? “Amazing.” Mary says she loves her job and is not the least bit tired of it. She says she can’t wait to come to work. She is grateful to be a part of an organization that changes people’s lives.
Working is a tremendously important to Mary’s sense of self and self-esteem because it allows her to contribute to something larger than herself. Feeling like she is making a difference in her world is hugely important to Mary. She wants other people to see her leading a full, productive life, despite any disabilities she has.
Mary says she is grateful for the administration and staff and mission of CFI. She believes it takes a team of people to accomplish CFI’s mission. CFI is unique in that 70% of the people who work there have a disability. The idea is to support, inspire and mentor others with a disability to consider working. “If they can do it maybe I can do it. “Mary hopes her story will promote more employers giving people with disabilities an opportunity to work. Statistically, people with disabilities are more dedicated, bring a unique set of skills to the table, and don’t take working for granted. They are not likely to be trying to move their way up the corporate ladder. More so, they believe in the mission of their work
What makes Mary Moore, a person with a disability, so happy and successful in her job? Mary says that the most important thing was just to be given the opportunity to work, to continue pursuing educational opportunities all these years, and having variety in her job. Working with youth inspires Mary and makes her passionate and enthusiastic about her work. Mary also mentions that she has needed some important accommodations that have allowed her to be successful and continue to work throughout the years. She has a service dog, Embree, who picks thinks up for her. Secondly, Mary uses Dragon Naturally Speaking software which allows her to verbally dictate information into her computer.
As the years have passed, Mary has had to deal with a decrease in mobility and moving from walking with crutches to using a scooter to get around. Her supportive family and strong faith coupled with an amazing work environment keep her motivated and going strong at work. “Helping others is very important to me.”
The easiest part of Mary’s job at CFI is being able to teach youth with disabilities. She is excited to be able to teach life skills to the youth, many of which are not taught in school. Mary hopes she can touch the lives of the young people she works with like a teacher in middle school who touched and changed her life. She is inspired to be like her former, teacher, Dr. Sinkler., who “changed my life”. Like Dr. Sinkler., Mary tries to give her youth new ideas, teach them how to advocate for themselves, and expand their world view and their idea of themselves. Mary believes in the “dignity of risk” for her young people and all persons with or without a disability. Locating affordable housing for people is also a difficult but extremely gratifying part of her job.
The most difficult part of Mary’s job is problem solving with people in crisis: people who haven’t felt heard, people struggling with psychiatric issues, substance abuse, domestic violence and poverty. “Its’s hard to tell people I can’t help them with all their issues.” Mary says the most important thing is to be honest, sensitive and empathetic. Mary learned these skills from her parents and grandparents who always helped other people and were a huge part of her life. As a Psychologist, Mary’s mom was a big influence on her and, in part, she learned how to be sensitive and empathetic from her. Her father was a newscaster who always carried a camera with him. When young Mary asked her father why he did that he told her he might need to capture an injustice in order to stop it. Both of Mary’s parents were involved in the civil rights movement. Mary learned early on that “we have a responsibility to be sensitive to one another”.
Retirement is not in Mary’s future. She says she will “retire when I die”. Because of her disabilities, Mary’s family encouraged her to travel and do the things she dreamed early in her life because her condition would probably worsen over time. Mary has traveled the world: Africa, Australia, Sychelles Islands, Amsterdam, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Mexico, and across the US. She rode in a Hot Air Balloon over Africa, saw giant tortoises in the Sychelles Islands, has horse-packed into the West Elk Wilderness many times, landed a 577-pound Blue Marlin after 4 ½ hours in Hawaii and did a tandem Sky-Dive.
Mary is grateful to be of service. Her plan is to keep going. She is happy to be working, giving of herself and leading a productive life.
Editorial Note: Mary inspires her fellow workers with her cheerful optimism in the face of personal and professional challenges. She is one of those inspirational citizens of the world who make us glad to know her.
Region 10 Area Agency on Aging
in Montrose, CO
Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are local aging programs that provide information and services on a range of assistance for older adults and those who care for them. By contacting your local agency you get access to critical information including:
Available services in your area
Mobility assistance programs, meal plans & housing
Assistance in gaining access to services
Individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training
Supplemental services, on a limited basis
State Agency on Aging for CO:
Introducing Frank Rivas
Frank Rivas is the new Colorado Choice Transitions Coordinator at Center for Independence (CFI). Frank’s job is to assist people to get out of skilled nursing facilities into less restrictive environments. He is uniquely qualified for this position, having worked in a similar capacity at The Resource Exchange – a supported living service program for 2.5 years.
Frank was born and raised in Miami. He was in the military for 17.5 years where he was a U.S. Army medic and all around “jack of all trades”. He left the military in 2001 due to some service connected disabilities in his ankles, knees, hip and shoulders. He also wears hearing aids.
In high school Frank was an extremely shy, “science nerd”. Yet, given a ride in a time machine, he would go back to his youth. When he “grows up” Frank would like to “be worry free’. His “superpower” is understanding others. Frank knows that the secret to understanding others is to understand yourself.
Frank attended Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs for two years. He then attended Colorado State University in Pueblo where he attained a BSW in Social Work with an Emphasis in Psychology in 2008. In 2010 he briefly the School of Nursing at the University of Miami before deciding to return to Colorado where he felt his heart truly belonged.
Frank was previously married but, unfortunately, his wife passed away 21 years ago. “This is one of life’s roller coaster rides” and something Frank has had to come to terms with in his personal journey. At one point in his life, Frank lost his home and moved to Como, Colorado where he lived in a camper with his dog and not much else.
Before CFI, Frank recently worked as a Mental Health clinician at Mind Springs Hospital where he worked facilitating groups and managing clients in an inpatient setting for 5.5 years. Frank found this job very rewarding. However, due to increasing pain from disabilities, Frank understood that he would have to limit his activities and he began looking for a job that would be less demanding on his body.
Frank chose to move to CFI which he finds to have a “non-bureaucratic, open and friendly” culture.
A very interesting side to Frank is his involvement as a “Pirate Reenactor”. He has been a member of the Colorado Rouges in Denver for over 12 years before retiring from that group and has recently joined the Highland
Rogues since moving to Grand Junction. This is a non-profit organization of “Pyrates with a Purpose”. They perform at special events and educate the public about pirates. Frank will be participating in the local and regional Renaissance Faires and other Pirate Invasions around the country.
In his spare time Frank is also an avid snowboarder and kayaker. He is inspired by nature and tries to visit and many natural places in the world as he can.
Frank is also a HAM radio operator. He has his passed the difficult test for his ‘Extra Class” license - which means he can talk to people all over the world. For example, he has made contact with folks as far Sweden and Chile. Frank is also involved in using the HAM radio at the Western Colorado Amateur Radio Club and looking to develop an Emergency Communications Center with the regional Veteran’s Administration Hospital in their Emergency Preparedness Plan that will encourage and help Veteran's with disabilities like low vision and agoraphobia reach out and make meaningful connections around the world and overcome some barriers to make those connections and feel less isolated.
Another fascinating thing about Frank is that he has built his own “Tiny House” on wheels. It has been a labor of love for the last four years and he says once done he wants to use it as his weekend getaway. Frank was a a Sous Chef for a short time but enhancing his cooking skills for years in a private kitchen, but now focuses on the art of Charcuterie(or smoking meats). He is a regular Boucanier which strangely is a root of the word Buccaneer. He is truly a Pirate in all the sense of the word.
Frank says that people think he is intense because of his size and his how he projects his voice. Because some people are triggered by this intensity, Frank tries to come across smaller and softer. However, Frank says he will never “sugar-coat” things. He sees himself as very straightforward. If you ask Frank a question you will get the truth from him.
If Frank found a winning lottery ticket he would look for its rightful owner because he is very satisfied with his life and loves to work. He feels working is good for his soul. On a scale of 1 to 10, he is a 9 in terms of happiness.
The last gift Frank gave someone is “confidence” and a chance to choose one of the 486 inspirational quotes he has in a jar which he shares with people.
A quote that Frank particularly likes is “Sometimes not doing anything is the best you can do”. He also says, “There is no honor in being better than anyone else. The only honor comes from being a better person than you were yesterday” (Hemingway).
The first 3 things Frank did on his first day at work at CFI were; remembered to be thankful for this job; closed the door to his office and was thankful that he has an office; and lastly, he worried.
Frank says he wants to inspire people to reach out and he will take the time to reach out be happy with people you love. He reminds us all that it is important not to leave it to someone else.
Welcome Frank Rivas!
Erika Kiefer is a new happy face here at Center for Independence, (CFI). She is with us in a paid Work Experience position through the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Erika was a little shy at first but has quickly blossomed into a valuable part of the CFI team. Not only has Erika mastered the multi-line phone system, she is able to give anyone who comes into our lobby a warm greeting and quickly find out what they need. She has learned quite a bit about Center for Independence and which staff member handles what type of work, which is not an easy task.
There is nothing Erika won’t attempt to do at CFI. She dives right into any task she is given. For example, Erika helped us get ready for our Voter’s Education and Registration Event by doing everything from making tons of copies to decorating the auditorium.
Erika is very neat, a good organizer, is very detail oriented and has done extensive work with our Record’s Manager getting files created and organized.
We have discovered that Erika is a Computer Wiz! She quickly created a very splashy 259-page PowerPoint for a staff member and is currently working on a big Excel file for another person.
In her spare time, Erika makes Origami animals and has generously shared them with us. Erika takes pleasure in giving and helping others. She enjoys being needed. Erika has a quiet and pleasant disposition, which makes it easy to work with her.
As you can see from this photo, she has a great smile. Welcome Erika!
FYI May is Older Americans Month 2018
Every May, the Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, leads our nation's observance of Older American's Month. The 2018 theme, Engage at Every Age, emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities.
Of Interest to Seniors and Persons
with Disabilities in
On May 8th, 2018 from 8:00 to 11:30, Center for Independence (CFI) at 740 Gunnison Avenue, will be hosting a Voters’ Education & Registration Event. A free breakfast will be served.
This event will help voters get ready to cast their ballots by explaining the voting process and highlighting issues of importance to seniors and persons with disabilities. Olivia Pilcher with the Disability Law Center will give a presentation titled, Voting Rights and Registration”. Volunteers from the League of Women Voters of Mesa County will be on hand to assist attendees with voter registration.
On July 12th, CFI is hosting a Candidates Forum from 8:00 until 11:00 followed by an informal one-on-one time with candidates. This is an opportunity to ask candidates questions pertaining to issues of seniors and persons with disabilities. A free breakfast will be served from 8:00 – 9:00.
Both events are non-partisan.
To register, please call CFI at 970-241-0315 or go to the website at www.cfigj.org. Under CONTACT CFI, fill out the form and include:
Number of people attending
First and Last Name(s)
Which event are you attending?