Endependence Center offers help for disabled people

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010

FRANKLIN—For Bonnie Hill, the Endependence Center helped her navigate the complicated world of working and receiving disability benefits.

“They’re there for the people,” Hill said.

While she had found a job at a deli before contacting the center, the center’s staff answered her questions and made sure she didn’t jeopardize her disability benefits by working too many hours.

“People need to use it because it’s there for them,” Hill said.

However, many in Western Tidewater aren’t even aware of the center or the services it provides. Hill, who’s from Sedley, said she only learned about it after making a number of phone calls.

That’s why Tecia Cogdell, a community work incentive coordinator with the center, wants to get the word out about the non-residential community-based center that works to help people with disabilities live independently. It offers a variety of services, including advocacy to address discrimination and information about the work incentives program.

The center’s services are funded through several different streams and are free to clients.

“Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do things,” Cogdell said.

The work incentive program is especially important because many people fear they will lose their benefits if they work, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Working, she said, can help people build self-esteem, raise their living standards and give them a chance to socialize with others.

“Working is more than just making money,” Cogdell said.

She said the center works to educate people and lead them to resources that will allow them to live in the community.

“We have found out that there are just too many people in rest homes that simply don’t need to be there,” Cogdell said.

She said the center’s staff can help people understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and can even help with home modifications, including rails, ramps and bathroom improvements.

Western Tidewater residents don’t have to travel to the Endependence Center’s office in Norfolk to benefit from its services.

On the first Thursday of each month, Cogdell is at the Southampton County Department of Social Services in the county office center in Courtland from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. On the third Thursday of the month, Cogdell is in the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services office on South College Drive in Franklin from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Another Endependence Center staff member, Brenda Estes, is available on the second Friday of each month from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Suffolk Workforce Development Center.

For more information or to schedule and appointment with Endependence Center staff, call 757-461-8007. For specific information on the work incentives program, call Cogdell at 757-898-5054.