By REBECCA HAZEN
The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living (NWGA CIL) serves a 15 county area, including Dade County, providing services for individuals of all ages who have all types of disabilities.
The NWGA CIL is based in Rome and has been helping people for 17 years. The CIL is both statewide, with nine locations in Georgia, and national as well.
“We serve Dade, but we don’t always get a lot of people from there. We really want to get the word out about what we do,” Assistant Director Christina Holtzclaw said. “We are a small center compared to others, but we have grown. We have about 10 employees.”
Holtzclaw said that the main mission of CIL is to help people with their independent living goals, which includes living skills.
For example, they offer classes, currently all on Zoom, on employability and finances. All of the help that they offer is free.
In addition, they have received CARES funds because of the pandemic.
“We want to make sure that for people who are in isolation, and who need assistive technology, we can get iPads to people. We will get them online,” Holtzclaw said.
With CARES funds, they can also help with rent, utilities and groceries.
NWGA CIL can also help people with home modifications, such as a ramp or a roll-in shower. They can help people get shower chairs or wheelchairs.
“A lot of agencies are do-for. But we are not. We don’t work harder for the goal then they do. We usually try to get help from another agency, or get friends and family members to volunteer to do the labor,” Holtzclaw said.
Other things that NWGA CIL does are teaching Braille to blind people. They can also help blind people with marking their stove and microwave buttons, for example, for better accessibility.
Another service they provide is helping people get out of nursing homes and back into their homes, safely. Sometimes all it takes for someone to be able to live at home is a home modification.
“Some of it is funded by donations, and we also get federal and state grants through Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and the Department of Labor. We work with the Area Agency on Aging and the Division of Aging Services,” Holtzclaw said.
NWGA CIL also helps with advocacy.
“For example, Dade doesn’t have a lot of public transportation. And that’s a big thing. We know all communities are different. We need the community to tell us what they need, and if there is anything we can do,” Holtzclaw said.
After the pandemic is over, they will continue with outreach, visiting each of the counties.
What is unique about NWGA CIL is that the majority of its staff has disabilities. For example, Holtzclaw is blind.
“You have people who have gone through what you are going through,” Holtzclaw said. “If you’re trying to sign up for social security, it’s a lot of paperwork. It can be frustrating, but if you are paired with someone who has worked through that system, it is easier.”
NWGA CIL wants people on the staff to have a wide range of disabilities because they know they will help people that have a wide range of disabilities.
“Our Independent Living Coordinator, Tereasa Lowry, has what we call a hidden disability. She has a mental health disability, which is often the most misunderstood of all the disabilities. When I am walking with my guide dog and my white cane, people can see that I am blind. But Tereasa looks like a ‘normal person.’ We know each person who comes in, their story is going to be different,” Holtzclaw said.
The goal of NWGA CIL is that no one leaves empty handed. According to Holtzclaw, many people that contact them for help have been stuck in a referral circle.
“They have been referred to death, and they want to find something where they don’t end back up where they started. We like to think of ourselves as bridging that gap,” Holtzclaw said.
For more information, visit nwgacil.org, or call (706) 314-0008. NWGA CIL is also on Facebook and Twitter.