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Community Options To Expand Employment Chances For Those With Disabilities

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Community Options To Expand Employment Chances For Those With Disabilities

Community Options will expand employment opportunities for Cookeville residents with disabilities thanks to a grant from the NBA Foundation.

Executive Director Kristine Shirley said the funds will help people with disabilities manage the responsibilities of having a job. She said she hopes the money funds technology to help people get rides to work and pays for more staff to help people manage responsibilities around the clock.

“It helps with getting more staffing to provide for the people that need it to go to work,” Shirley said. “We have a lot of people that would love to be able to have a job, and that is one of their ultimate goals in life.”

Shirley said many of the people Community Options supports live through social security. She said with rent on the rise, disabled people need more support in finding employment to survive. Employment services from Community Options now serve some 1,900 people.

“It could be charts of all their responsibilities in order, or it could be maybe a timer to help them with managing their time for the task that they’re needing to do, or it could be a watch,” Shirly said. “It could be anything like that.”

Shirley said many people served by the organization have staff in their homes 24 hours a day. She said grant money that comes in can help cover a portion of rent or equipment like shower chairs and walkers that insurance does not cover. She said the money would also help make “enabling technology” more affordable, electronic devices that promote independence in the home or at work.

“A lot of their minds work differently from ours, so having those different tasks that help them is a huge, huge help, just even to get their job done in the employment side,” Shirley said.

Community Options began in 1989 and has since expanded to 12 states, including locations in Cookeville and Nashville. The NBA Foundation parcelled out $5.8 million to 23 different organizations with this round of grants. The Foundation was created in 2020 with a board of directors including Michael Jordan and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. This is Community Options’ second year in the grant program.

“There’s more education coming out about Community Options,” Shirley said. “That’s one of my biggest things in this local area, is educating the population about Community Options and why it is so important.”

She said about 70 percent of the people she speaks with now are aware of the organization and what they do. She said when she began three years ago, very few knew about what Community Options does. She said grants like this one will help the organization impact more lives and create job opportunities for more people who would struggle to get them without an organization’s support.


The post Community Options To Expand Employment Chances For Those With Disabilities appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.