Independent Life Center restructuring, likely moving to Steamboat Springs

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Evelyn Tileston

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Courtesy photo

Jackie Lyons

If you go…

What: Independent Life Center open house

Where: Independent Life Center, 483 Yampa Ave., second floor

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 16

Why: To thank Evelyn Tileston for her years of service and to welcome new director Jackie Lyons

The founder of the Independent Life Center in Craig announced Saturday she has resigned amid restructuring efforts within the organization.

Evelyn Tileston said ILC’s board of directors has decided to take the organization in a new direction. She cited her age and family responsibilities for her decision to step down.

“The board of directors decided they need to move in a new direction and at my age and with my family responsibilities, I didn’t feel like I could take on a whole new system and do the ILC justice and do justice to my family,” Tileston said. “My husband is the most important responsibility I have, and I have to do what is best for my family.”

Although Tileston will no longer be at the helm of the ILC, she said her ties to organization are not cut.

“I ain’t dead,” Tileston said. “I will continue to volunteer for the ILC and continue to volunteer for the individuals that are blind program.

“My ties are not cut with the organization at all, it’s just that everything grows and changes.”

ILC was launched 14 years ago in Craig with the initial intention of providing accessible wheelchair transportation to help disabled citizens shop for groceries and visit the doctor.

The organization has evolved to provide cross-disability peer counseling, skills training for everyday living, advocacy for one’s self and others, and information and referrals.

Jackie Lyons, former ILC coordinator for Routt County, has been appointed director.

She said as part of the restructuring process, the office in Craig will likely close and a new facility will open sometime in the future in Steamboat Springs.

“We’re closing the doors (in Craig) for a few weeks during the restructuring process,” Lyons said. “We will be opening an office in Steamboat Springs because the infrastructure and the people are there.

“The Craig office will close (permanently), but we don’t have a timeframe on when yet.”

Lyons said there are a number of reasons why the board decided to restructure the organization, the most prominent being the fact that the ILC incurs a lot of debt maintaining its office at 483 Yampa Ave., which keeps the organization from distributing services evenly among its other clients in Routt, Rio Blanco, Grand and Summit counties.

“We have to get better coverage out to the five counties we serve and live within our means with the money we have now and the money we have coming in,” Lyons said. “If all of the money is being spent in Craig and in this building, we really can’t expand all of our services to the five counties we serve.”

Lyons said Steamboat Springs is a logical place for ILC’s new home because of its proximity to the rest of the region.

“Routt is right smack dab in the middle of the five counties, so people can ride a bus and come participate in a computer class, a resume writing class, an independent living class, budget class or a cooking class for people with low vision,” Lyons said.

Lyons said all of ILC’s services will remain intact during the restructuring period, except for the van service.

“The van service will not run the way it has in the past,” Lyons said. “Previously, it has operated like a taxi service. We’re going to move to a voucher system to pool community resources and make the service more affordable.”

In other words, ILC will not be providing a van service directly. Instead, Lyons said ILC will work with clients to build a transportation plan and reimburse friends, family members, volunteers or other members of the community to help their clients get around.

“Basically, we’re going to work with clients and their families,” Lyons said. “Those who are willing to volunteer to help our clients will be reimbursed for their mileage.”

In addition to closing the Craig office, Lyons said ILC was forced to lay off five employees Friday to help trim expenses.

Deb Coniff was one of the five employees laid off. She said there is no animosity on her end for the ILC’s decision and that she plans to stay involved with the organization.

“This has always been more than a job,” Coniff said. “I have always worked and done things to help people, but I have never actually had a job where I got paid to help people. It was really very nice.

“You don’t just walk away from something like this.”

ILC announced Monday it will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 at the ILC office in Craig, 483 Yampa Ave., to thank Tileston for her years of service and to welcome Lyons as the new director.

“I’ll definitely be there,” Tileston said.

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