Let me introduce myself … My name is Karen. I currently live independently with my son. A mother of 3 grown adults and 3 grandchildren. I am thankful for being here to share my story with you. It was April 19th, 1995 …I was on my way to pick up a client. I was driving on a dirt road in the country. We had had freezing rain then a snow covering. I had a car accident. I can not remember all the details of the accident. But I do remember seeing a tree that I was heading straight for!! Next thing I remember, I awoke trapped in my car in a RIVER! The water was already at my waist and as my car continued to sink, my car filled higher with water! I remember trying to get my seat belt off…but no such luck. (I had the kind of car that when you open your door the seat belt comes off. And when you close your door the seat belt comes on you and straps you in.) So when I tried opening my car door the door would not open! So I was still trapped with the seat belt on. The rest is a miracle… I am sure I was in shock. I was told later that my drivers door was smashed in and the way the current was running they aren’t even sure how my door opened. I do not remember getting my door open. I remember being in the river and it felt soooo cold. (The ice had just come off the river). That only lasted a minute though. The next thing I remember I was along side the river bank calling for help and trying to pull myself up the steep bank. I had no luck, I struggled and felt too weak to pull myself out. Then all I can remember is I am almost a mile away from my car and at the home of the ladies house that I was picking up. There are angels all around us and that day I’m sure I had help getting out of my car, up the river bank and to the home I needed to be at!! I have hardly any memory of the rest of my day either. My whole life changed after that… I was in a lot of physical pain (mostly my neck). I was later diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, a seizure disorder caused by the head injury, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and depression.
I went to many Doctor’s, through physical therapy, counseling, rehabilitation, etc… The years went by quickly! 10 years came and went. I wanted a part of my life back. I started working for family and had the support of my Mother working along side of me. Which led us to Cloquet, where we currently reside. I was referred to Vocational Rehabilitation and Goodwill. From there, I was sent out to trial different employment. I was best suited in cashiering, because of previous experience.
I had been receiving late notices with all my bills. Incurring late fees, high interest rates, etc. Because of my disorganization I was not able to find my bills and had no clue when they were due and when to pay them. I was overspending and overcharging. I was very stressed and emotional and needed help. In January 2007, I was referred to Access North, Center for Independent Living. That was a turning point for me, to become more independent. Since then, I have met with IL Specialists regularly. I can now find my bills, because I have a system that helps me organize. They taught me how to budget, how to pay bills on time, and the thing that helped me most, was that she made a monthly expense report. So every month, I could view my monthly expenses, I found this tool very useful. I am happy to say, I can find my bills and I am not late on anything. I still continue to struggle a bit with budgeting. Currently the same expense report is on my computer and I am able to update it monthly by myself. My debt has reduced significantly and in the future, I hope to continue to work with my IL Specialist on my goals and add new goals as needed. New goals like computer skills, additional organizational skills (other than just bills).
I want to thank everyone at AccessNorth Center for Independent Living for helping me obtain skills to be able to continue my independence. I am now currently going through the process of buying a home through USDA Rural Development. And if it wasn’t for your help, getting my finances under control, I would not be able to qualify and purchase a home for my son and I.
Anthony was referred to Access North, Center for Independent Living on February 2010, by Division of Rehabilitation Services. At that time, an Independent Living assessment was completed. Anthony expressed an interest in gaining skills in the following areas: budgeting, studying for his permit, telling time/time management, and he wanted to work on getting a job after high school. During his senior year in high school, Anthony participated in weekly transition classes, coordinated by CILNM staff. During these classes, he gained skills in the following areas: budgeting, self-advocacy, relationships, job seeking skills, recreation activities, filling out forms and so on. In January 2011, Anthony secured a position as a cart attendant.
He is very happy to be working, stating, “I like my job and everyone loves me there.”
Jesse was referred to Access North CILNM by Vocational Rehabilitation Services on February 2009, at which time an independent living assessment was completed. Jesse was involved in transition classes weekly with CILNM staff, during his senior year in high school. During high school and since graduation, Jesse has gained skills in the following areas: budgeting, cleaning/cooking, gaining information about employment options and has recently started working in his home town in a housekeeping position. Prior to Jesse getting a job, CILNM staff assisted him in getting into a volunteer position where he gained employment skills, people skills and completed a variety of on-the-job tasks with co-workers. He also spent extensive time studying for his permit test which he passed a year ago. Since then, he has purchased a car and spends time practicing driving so he can take his driver’s test.
Way to go Jesse……Keep up the good work.
Patsy was referred to CILNM by GRACE House homeless shelter of Itasca County on 5-27-2011. At that time, she had already been there for almost two months. Prior to GRACE house, she had been homeless for a year, living in a variety of homes, some of which were abusive situations. When she arrived at GRACE House, she started attended counseling and started taking her medication on a regular basis.
During meetings with CILNM staff, Patsy filled out housing applications, attended meetings with housing facilities, completed forms and attended meetings with her case manager. On June 10th, 2011, Patsy was informed there was an apartment in Grand Rapids ready for her to move into. With assistance from her son, Salvation Army and CILNM staff, she got everything situated in her new home.
When asked how she is doing now, Patsy states, “I can’t even explain how good it feels to have my own home, cook my own meals and sleep in my own bed. It is so peaceful. I have no more anxiety, my blood pressure is normal and I just feel good.”