Technology Fund Ceremony

Life-changing devices were presented through Community Living’s Technology Fund

Twenty-four Community Living clients who participate in the organization’s direct support services programs received the gift of life-changing technology. During an event held at the Community Living offices in St. Peters, the individuals were presented with over $14,000 worth of technology devices, including iPads and iPhones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets and Google Chromebooks. The items were purchased through Community Living’s Technology Fund, which was established in 2016 to provide assistive and adaptive technology devices to individuals with disabilities that are served by Community Living. In recent months, Community Living issued a call for applications, giving clients the chance to apply to receive the devices.

“For our clients, these devices represent life-changing tools with the power to enhance life and job skills, make communication easier and provide an endless array of educational opportunities,” said Christine Rutherford, Director of Development. “We are truly thrilled to be able to use dollars contributed to our Technology Fund to provide this array of tech items to our clients that need them most.”

Funds raised for this initiative were generated in a variety of ways, including the receipt of a grant from the St. Charles Rotary Club and donations received from Give STL Day, a spring mail appeal and by donors attending Community Living’s 2016 Legacy Ball gala event. Last year, donations from the Technology Fund were used to purchase technology devices for a handful of clients, with a portion of funds being set aside for the recent call for applications. A total of 24 applications were received and Community Living was able to grant each of the requests.

Among the clients receiving technology devices during the event was 13-year-old Elijah Rutherford, a participant in Community Living’s SOAR (Social Opportunities and Recreation) program, which provides year-round enrichment and social activities for teens with developmental disabilities.

Elijah, who struggles with writing, received a Google Chromebook with a speech-to-text feature designed to help him complete written school assignments more quickly, allowing him to keep up with his peers when computers aren’t accessible in the classroom. Fellow SOAR participant 17-year-old Antwan Johnson was also the recipient of an electronic device at the event. Recently accepted into the Adult Life Preparation Program at St. Charles Community College, Antwan received a laptop that can be used in class and at home for school assignments. Also receiving a device at the event was Jana Uldrych. Jana is legally blind and utilizes Community Living’s Independent Living Assistance services. After her computer broke a couple of years ago, Jana was unable to afford to purchase another computer with vision software designed to help her read independently. Following the event, she is now the owner of a new laptop computer which features the vision software she needs.

“So many of us view technology as simply a way to do our work or to stay connected to friends and family,” said Barb Griffith, President and CEO. “But, for the individuals who received devices, technology is a critical part of life, and something that they truly rely on.”

Community Living participant Mike Wood is a recent technology device recipient whose life was changed after he received an iPad Air through Community Living’s Technology Fund last fall. When the fund was initially established, Mike was among the first clients to receive a tech device. Mike has severe autism and is also non-verbal, and he was getting frustrated with his inability to communicate. His speech therapist recommended the use of an iPad Air with Proloquo2Go symbol-supported communication to help him “speak.” The technology, which would have been tough for Mike to afford on his own, has opened up a new world of possibilities for communication. In less than a year, Mike has learned how to operate the iPad and has familiarized himself with symbols that help him communicate. He has progressed quickly, and is now able to differentiate between yes and no responses and can combine symbols to communicate his opinions, wants and needs.

“Mike is all smiles when he’s using this technology to speak,” said Cindy Borgerding, Individual Program Coordinator for Community Living. “It’s awe-inspiring to watch how proud he is of himself and how far he’s come as he works to increase his communications skills.”

Photo: Harold McDowell shows off his new iPad Pro and OtterBox. Harold was one of the 24 applicants and all were awarded their request. Click here for more photos.