Tony (KCAP): Thanks for sticking around for us this morning and we did a quick switcheroo during the break. Joining me now for the show today, Kiki Moses. You are the, I want to make sure I get this right, you are the Business Development Analyst with the Montana Independent Living Project.
Kiki (mILp): It is a mouthful, yes.
Tony (KCAP): That’s mouthful, I almost got it out. So Kiki to start us off can you explain a little bit just about what the Montana Independent Living Project is for people who maybe haven’t heard of that.
Kiki (mILp): Yes, please thank you and thank you for the opportunity. So that’s a mouthful, we usually go by our acronym mILp. mILp has actually been around for almost 40 years. It started in Helena in 1981. Our mission is promoting independence for people with disabilities. Which is a great mission, but I mean what does that mean.
Tony (KCAP): Right.
Kiki (mILp): It’s a lot of advocacy. It is reducing isolation which is a big issue for people with disabilities. We cover cross-disabilities. So mental, developmental, cognitive, and mobility, getting people out and about, out of institutions, and into the community.
Tony (KCAP): So its a very wide net and it’s also, you cover a very wide area of the state, right?
Kiki (mILp): Yes, thank you, Troy. We do. we actually cover 14 southwest Montana counties and we have offices in Helena, Butte, and Bozeman. Then we have one program called Orientation and Mobility which is a service specifically for those living with blind or low vision. That is actually statewide.
Tony (KCAP): Wow.
Kiki (mILp): So you can imagine, yes, the coverage for our specialists.
Tony (KCAP): So how hard is that, because you cover such a wide area with such a wide range of disabilities, how hard is it to effectively do that and not just sort of dilute the whole thing?
Kiki (mILp): Again, thank you for that question. We just, if I may, we have an awesome staff. We have dedicated, passionate employees that either live with their own disabilities or have family with disabilities. And, yeah, there is no dilution. It is just a matter of working directly, most one-on-one, and taking care of each person on a one-to-one basis.
Tony (KCAP): So if we sort of narrow the focus down a little bit to Helena and the Helena office, who is it that you are working with and how many people are you working with in the Helena area?
Kiki (mILp): Thank you for asking that. We actually just, I am going to say over 500 people and, again, that is in our service area. Within the Helena area, I am going to say 250 directly, but we also have what we call I&Rs and that’s Information and Referrals. That’s over 1,100 a year either referring them or taking care of their circumstances even over the phone or in-home.
Tony (KCAP): And that’s done by how many people? How many workers, how many volunteers do you have?
Kiki (mILp): We have just over 26 full and part-time staff and we also have at least 6 or 7 peer support individuals and in the Helena office we’re, at any given time, about 11 or 12 that just do, I just can’t say enough, do just an amazing job. They’re really the tip of the spear. They’re our foot soldiers getting it done, and I am more of a behind-the-scenes promoting.
Tony (KCAP): Right. Okay you said the general idea is to promote independence for people living with disabilities. What does that look like, what is that, I mean, we hear those words and it makes sense, but in real life what does that look like?
Kiki (mILp): Great question. What that looks like, I have a few personal stories, of individuals that have authorized me to talk about their situation. One most recently is a little gal named Katie Lynn and she lives with a visual disability. And most of us take it for granted, even if we wear glasses, it is just a non issue. For Katie Lynn, she was not able to hunt with her family. We’re in Montana. Hunting is just part of our constitution. It was effecting her emotionally as well and her family. One of our Orientation and Mobility specialists actually designed an adaptive device to fit on her rifle so she could use a cellphone. So instead of using a scope she used her phone. It zoomed in. She was able to hunt for the first time a few weeks ago. She got her first deer. And just amazing, amazing story. And then we have an older woman who was living in an institution but really wanted to be at home. Again it is so hard for us to imagine, but I know my home is my sanctuary and while there is many facilities that do their best to make it home-like, it’s just not. And because of, again, our staff working directly with agencies and with this woman, she was able to transition to her own home and have in-home care. She suffered from depression, anxiety, did not want to integrate with the community, and now she is. She went to the beautician for the first time. These are stories that just literally make us cry and it’s outstanding. We have another gal that I have the privilege of working with has a mobility issue so everyday is living in a wheelchair. Although it is the coolest pink wheelchair. And she truly lives independently. She has her own place, her own space, and she does not want to depend on anybody to engage in the community. And while any of us and her family are willing to do that, she doesn’t want to be dependent. Another of our local programs called AIR, Accessible Integrative Rides, provides transportation for people with disabilities when the City is not operating which is weekends, evening, and holidays. Really that’s typically the time that most people want to go…
Tony (KCAP): Sure, want to go do things.
Kiki (mILp): Yeah, they want to be with their friends and family. Before she was trying to navigate through how to literally roll across highways, train tracks, and especially with weather not being able to navigate through the ice and snow. This program has just changed her life. She even participated in the Nutcracker this past Christmas. She was able to attend all the rehearsals. It was in the evening. She would not have been able to do that otherwise and this is all because of mill’s advocacy garnering community support. We just have a great community.
Tony (KCAP): Because this is not just about helping people do the basics, right? Pay their bills, go to the grocery store. We’re are talking about promoting quality of life not just the basics, right?
Kiki (mILp): Yes, absolutely. Quality of life and, again it’s become cliche, but if you live with what some of our consumers, friends, and family do, it is a life changer. Although I have to say we do help with bill pay. We do help with housing, again transportation…
Tony (KCAP): Sure. The stuff that’s important has to get done as well.
Kiki (mILp): Yes.
Tony (KCAP): As a non-profit, fundraisers become very important and you have a big one coming up. It’s the 1st weekend in May. So it’s a little bit off, but certainly not too far away for people to start planning for.
Kiki (mILp): Yes, thank you. We do want people to plan for it. It is May the 5th. It will be held at the Kleffner Ranch from 1:00-6:00 p.m. It is Derby for Disabilities. It is our second annual signature fundraiser. It went so well last year, but we were building on it. Sound like the bionic man. It’s bigger, better. Just having it at the Kleffner is a blessing and we not only want people to have a wonderful time with everything that will be available but to remember what we do, what our mission is and to assist us with donating, providing, and it goes directly into local programs that do assist and promote independence for our community.
Tony (KCAP): For those that don’t make that date connection that aren’t hard core fans of the derby. What you’re doing, you’re talking Kentucky derby, right?
Kiki (mILp): We are and we are going to have a 12 x 22 foot conglomerate of LCD TVs to watch live. I can tell you, even if you aren’t interested in the betting, when you are there watching this you literally, feel like the dirt is flying off the screen. It is based around the derby, but even if you are not interested in it, we have silent auction, photo booth, cash bar, and again you are supporting programs for our community.
Tony (KCAP): You can get Mint Juleps and watch the derby on a gigantic TV screen.
Kiki (mILp): Why not and we will have fresh Mint Juleps, yes.
Tony (KCAP): Do we get to wear the hats an everything?
Kiki (mILp): Thank you, yes there will be a hat and bowtie contest. Yes, silent auction and we’re considering live auction as well. We are working on cinching up the live betting through the State.
Tony (KCAP): And also music possibly?
Kiki (mILp): You know we did consider music, but I think there is going to be so much commotion. Yes, just with me on the mic, as you can imagine, and then with the race.
Tony (KCAP): And what about tickets? Ticket prices, where to get them, how to get them, that sort of thing?
Kiki (mILp): Yes, please. Call me. Call Kiki and order your tickets now. I think they will fill really quickly. They are $25 per person, $40 for a couple, and if you would like more than that, call me for a group rate.
Tony (KCAP): Okay, so that’s not bad. That’s for a whole event. You’re not just sitting down in a living room in lawn chairs watching a TV…
Kiki (mILp): Right, although there is nothing wrong with that. Haha.
Tony (KCAP): Like you are making it a big deal.
Kiki (mILp): It is a big deal. We really want it to be a high-level, first-class event. And we’re going to pull that off and we really want the community to enjoy it with us, have a good time, but remember why we’re all there.
Tony (KCAP): And that’s to help people enjoy the things that we, as you said, sort of take for granted, right?
Kiki (mILp): Yes, absolutely.
Tony (KCAP): What if people want to help otherwise? If they’re busy that weekend. If they’re thinking, you know I am just not a big horse racing fan, but this sounds like something that I would like to somehow get involved with, what can they do?
Kiki (mILp): Again, call Kiki. Call, email, stop by. Yes please, we are always open to donations anytime. We make it easy. You can send a check. We also have online software. You can pay through PayPal. We have a text-to-donate function at 401-444. Just type in mILp. We try to make it as easy as possible and, again, these funds and donations go directly into programs. They don’t go into administration. So dollar-for-dollar which I know, for me personally, makes a big difference. We are also always looking for volunteers.
Tony (KCAP): And what about those volunteers? We got about a minute left. If somebody wants to volunteer, what can they do? Who are you looking for?
Kiki (mILp): Okay that is broad and I’ll try to make that into a minute. We are always looking for someone to facilitate the day-to-day. That could be in-house. It could be paperwork. It could be assisting one of our independent living specialists or self-direct specialists. It could be just helping with events, whether its addressing phone calling or cleaning up. There is something for everybody and you don’t have to be necessarily an outgoing person. If you want to do something behind the scenes, that is just as valuable.
Tony (KCAP): So lots and lots of options. We need to make bumper stickers or something. Call Kiki is what we need. Give us the number, how can we call Kiki.
Kiki (mILp): Haha. Yes, 406.442.5755 and my extension is 106.
Tony (KCAP): And you are also online? You have a website online. What is that address?
Kiki (mILp): We do it is www.milp.us and we are on Twitter and Facebook.
Tony (KCAP): You’re everywhere.
Kiki (mILp): We’re everywhere.
Tony (KCAP): Well, Kiki Moses, thank you for stopping by this morning. We’re about out of time. Thanks also to Jeff Wadecamper from the airport for swinging by. We’re going to send it now to ABC News and then Voices of Montana with John Arneson.