Alliance for Independence

Alliance for Independence

60 Years of EMPOWERING ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES

BY LAVERNE STEVENS

2012-11-11 22.26.22

Alliance for Independence (AFI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing training for adults with disabilities throughout Polk County. At the end of Sunshine St. E. in East Lakeland you will find a large building complex where amazing and heartwarming things are happening. From the time you enter the office, tour the work area, and leave walking down the sidewalk made of bricks with the names of donors or dedications to deceased loved ones, you are inspired by the supportive atmosphere of this place. On the wall in the entrance are these motivational words:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Shirley A. Balogh is the president and CEO. She works with a volunteer Board of Directors. Her dedicated 40 years of work experience with AFI were evident when she said, “We are celebrating our 60th year of providing support and services to adults with developmental disabilities. We could not have done this without the support of the community. This is the best community you could live in.” .

Greg Hudson

Many different events are scheduled to celebrate their 60th year of operation. March 14th will be the Wine Festival of Central Florida held at the Lake Mirror Promenade; April 10th, the community is invited to an open house to tour the facility. Refreshments will be made and served by the Culinary Department of AFI; May 16th, a golf tournament at Eaglebrook will be held in conjunction with the Evening Sertoma Club; Sept. 16th will be the annual community recognition dinner and auction. “This gives us an opportunity to thank this community for what they do, while raising funds to support the program,” said Balogh.

Medicaid reimbursement provides 45 percent of the funding for this facility. Remaining funds come from United Way, grants, fundraisers and donations.

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There are many functions going on here that give support back to the community. The art studio offers an opportunity to learn and produce artwork that is sold during the fund raisers and the annual dinner. Mitchell’s Coffee Shop in downtown Lakeland will be displaying a showing of the artwork from this studio during the whole month of March. The sewing department is currently working on sewing aprons, oxygen tank covers, and tote bags that can be attached to walkers or wheel chairs for disabled, injured veterans from the armed forces. These items can be purchased through Granny Jo Products in Lakeland at www.grannyjoproducts.com. Benefit packages for Publix employees are collated and packaged in large envelopes in another area. There is a mobile crew that goes to Little & Company to work on sorting and packaging projects.

Importance is put on health awareness and self-esteem. There is a group walking club to keep fit. In another area, a dance group exercises with dance moves to music.

A great deal of effort is placed on the importance of these people, who at one time 60 years ago were overlooked, thought to have no way of contributing to life or community. 

As a result of the caring and vision that has grown over the years, this establishment has developed into a facility that enhances the skills, talents and education abilities for disabled adults. This allows them to become working residents, who contribute to Polk County. Some of them live at home with their parents or guardians, and others are living independently on their own.

For more information about AFI, check out the website at www.AFI-FL.ORG.