BY KATIE MATTESON
Society’s Assets is an Independent Living Center (ILC), one of eight centers in Wisconsin. The local center covers Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Rock and Jefferson counties.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, ILCs are community-based, non-residential, non-profit agencies in the private sector. These agencies were created to promote independence and self-determination for individuals, as well as offer support and information to families and communities.
Formed in Racine by people with disabilities, the name Society’s Assets was chosen because the founders wanted to be seen as assets to society – as having abilities to contribute to the community.
Its mission: “To ensure the rights of all persons with disabilities to live and function as independently as possible in the community of their choice, through supporting individuals’ efforts to achieve control over their lives and become integrated into the community.”
Co-founder Dan Johnson, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a wrestling injury at Horlick High School when he was 15, became Society’s Assets’ first executive director and went on to serve as the first coordinator for people with physical disabilities for the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Social Services for 30 years. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 69.
After incorporating as a non-profit agency in 1974, Society’s Assets opened its first office in the City Hall Annex on Center Street in 1976 and resided in three other locations before establishing itself at 5200 Washington Ave., Suite 225 in Racine in 1994.
The Kenosha County office is located at 5455 Sheridan Road, Suite 101 and the Elkhorn office serving Walworth, Rock and Jefferson counties is located at 615 E. Geneva St.
Funding for the state-certified programs provided come from federal, state and county grants, Medical Assistance, Medicaid programs, private medical insurance, grants from other agencies and self-pay.
The annual Society’s Assets Open raises scholarship funds for college students with disabilities. The 2019 event is set for Monday, June 17 at Kenosha Country Club. Sponsors and golfers are welcome.
The agency’s 526 employees, which are organized into three departments, Independent Living, Home Care and Home Health, served 2,000 people in 2018 and received 5,400 calls for information and resources. Seventy percent of the consumers served by the agency have a physical disability. Other consumers have developmental, sensory, mental health or cognitive disabilities. SAI Home Health Care Inc., was incorporated as a subsidiary of Society’s Assets in 1995.
Karen Olufs, who has served as the Director of Independent Living for 19 years, described the extensive tools provided by the agency (see graphic).
Olufs noted the Try-Out program, which has more than 1,000 pieces of assistive technology from simple gadgets to computer applications that can help enhance clients’ quality of life.
She said people of all ages with disabilities or mental health conditions benefit from workshops offered, such as TREES (Teaching Relationships for Everyone in Everyday Situations), Skills to Pay the Bills (Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success) and Help Yourself (A Guide to Learning Self Advocacy).
According to Public Relations & Program Development Director Amy Mlot, the Home Care Department’s 157 Racine caregivers currently care for 237 clients in need of daily, weekly or every other week services. She said that they often hire family members, which eases the financial strain on the consumer and the family.
An example is Andrew Tran, 29, who requires 24-hour care because his intellectual level is that of a four year old. His mother Susan was hired by Society’s Assets to provide his routine cares, like blood sugar tests, medications, breakfast, shower and cleaning his room. Her work is supervised by the agency.
During the day, Susan takes her son to an adult day care for six hours, so she can go to work to care for other consumers as part of her job with the agency.
Mlot, who also oversees the Home Health Department, said that skilled nursing staff currently care for 50 clients in that program.
For assistance in Racine County, call (262) 637-9128 or (866) 840-9761 TTY, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit societysassets.org.