When the leadership at SKILLS asked program participants what SKILLS could do to better support them, one big idea rose to the forefront. They wanted a self-advocacy group.
The first meeting was held on May 17, 2017. At that meeting, the group set an ambitious goal: to change the world. They’re doing that by speaking up for themselves and others, making their own decisions and asking for support when they need it.
Anybody who participates at SKILLS is eligible to join the group. While it’s modeled loosely after groups like Speaking Up for Us (SUFU), participants voted to remain an independent group. They named it Standing Together.
This group is an experiment. Everyone is learning as they go. For example, meetings were originally in the evenings but people had trouble getting there. When the group moved meetings to the daytime, they saw a jump in attendance.
It’s run by group members, not by staff. So far they haven’t decided if they want to elect officials for the group, but the idea is on the table.
One of the original staff advisors, Cary Kelly, is retiring, so Patrick Bagley from the Dill Center has stepped in to help Cindy Shaw facilitate. While Cindy and Patrick are there to answer questions and help line up guest speakers, it’s up to the group members to run their meetings and set their agenda.
“It’s their job to make this work,” says Cindy. “This is what Standing Together is all about.”
The group discusses such topics as guardianship, personal relationships, communicating with your doctor, staying safe and dealing with the R-word.
Less than a year old, Standing Together is already making a difference. They led the R-word pledge at the annual Dill Center Talent Show and are discussing fundraising for causes they care about.
Their meetings are held monthly at different sites within the SKILLS network. All members of the SKILLS community are welcome to attend.