According to Executive Director Bob Mecca, LIFT, located in the former Spruce Street School building, was actually started in 1987 as a satellite office from Community Resources for Independence (CRI) of Erie.
On July 1, 1994, LIFT became its own organization, independent of CRI.
"Our goal is to have enough centers for independent living in the state to cover the entire state," said Mecca
said LIFT has 254 active clients, but has had 11,042 referrals within the past 12 months.
Last year's goal was to have 11,000 referrals, which was obviously exceeded.
"Last year we accomplished every goal we setŠactually we exceeded every goal," said Mecca
.LIFT's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Mecca
is a unique organization, as it is a consumer-driven organization, taking the approach of "It's your life, your decision."Staff members simply help the customer maximize their independence, making sure the client is moving in the right direction with their decisions.
Over the years, Mecca
has seen LIFT grow from four employees to ten, with an eleventh slot soon to be filled (three part-time and the rest full-time).Also, the organization's budget has grown from $200,000 to approximately $500,000.Mecca
said the organization has also matured greatly with its technology.
The organization has grown from "one little office down the hall" - with under 100 clients - to six offices in the complex.LIFT
receives a variety of grants, said Mecca
, some of which go specifically toward funding the organization, while others are pass-through grants that benefit the service region.Mecca
stated the Northern Tier Access Grant, which covers the four counties of Elk, Cameron, McKean and Potter, offers funding for ways to make all parts of the community accessible to Pennsylvanians with disabilities.These funds can be used for home modifications.
At any given time, Mecca
has 8-17 grants in operation.
"Presently, we have 13 grants," he
Aside from grants, LIFT
does many community fundraisers, such as the annual Charity Golf Classic.Recently, the fifth annual golf classic raised over $10,000.Mecca
spoke very highly of the support the organization receives from the community.
As for the services LIFT provides, Mecca
said not one stands out, as "they're all very important services."
Among those services are:
€ Information and referral - LIFT
provides information and/or refers individuals to service providers or options more suited to their needs.Mecca
stated this service is what results in so many referrals, as under this item LIFT provides counseling to not just those with disabilities, but anyone requesting it, especially contractors with ADA requirement questions.
"Many of them are dealing with people with disabilities but only need assistance one time," Mecca
said of referrals, adding that is why they do not become clients.
€ Service planning and coordination - Coordinating with all community services and resources to assure a customer's need will be met.
€ Independent living skills instruction - This program can be done one-on-one or in a group setting, and in-home visits are given, allowing the person to benefit from training for independent living in a less restrictive environment.
€ PA's Initiative on Assistive Technology - LIFT
provides assistive technology services to area consumers.Mecca
said this program allows people with disabilities to borrow adaptive equipment for several weeks to see which item best suits their needs before a purchase is made.
€ Accessibility counseling - LIFT
offers information, advice and technical assistance on various topics.
€ Peer counseling - This service allows a person with a disability to share experiences with a staff member who shares the experience of having a disability.Mecca
said these are not professional counseling sessions, but peer counseling.
€ Advocacy - Consumer training is provided to teach an individual with a disability to exercise his
rights and to be a self-advocate.
Advocacy can be done in an individual or a group format.For example, Mecca
said an individual having issues with snow removal can contact LIFT
, who will help them advocate for their rights.Mecca has a personal spot in his heart for advocacy as he was LIFT's advocate for eight years, starting most of the eight Regional Action Teams within the six-county region.
"It's a good feeling to start something like that and have it grow," he
is "for people with disabilities by people with disabilities," said Mecca
."Who better to know what you need than someone in the same place as you living with an independent lifestyle."LIFT
is required to have 51 percent of its board, and staff, be people with disabilities, which LIFT
exceeds.The current board is made up of 11 people, and can have as many as 15 percent.
"We've got a good strong board," Mecca
said there are hundreds of volunteers involved in the Regional Action Teams, and LIFT
has two regular volunteers who can often be found in its offices.Mecca
said there are some events coming up that will honor LIFT's
On November 23, an open house will be held at the Johnsonburg Firehall to introduce all of LIFT's
services to the public.
"The open house is to show what we've accomplished over the past ten years and the services we can provide you now," said Mecca
"We've doubled our budget, more than doubled our staff and more than doubled the services provided," said Mecca
In the next ten years, Mecca
will be twice as large as it is now.