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The Grundy County Housing Authority is very proud to partner with the Will Grundy Center for Independent Living ; their Morris Office is located at Saratatoga Tower, 1700 Newton Place, Morris, IL 60450.  Check out some of the great work they're doing right here in Grundy County!

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Morris resident Ron Padlo sits on his bicycle, which he is now able to ride after being reintegrated into his own home from a nursing home with the help of Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living. His personal assistant Roger Haefner stands next to him. (Photo courtesy of the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living)

Ron Padlo of Morris loves riding his bicycle — and he has for years, often leaving his home and returning hours later after putting in 80 miles on his ride.

When Padlo had a stroke, he faced left hemiparesis, meaning the left side of his body was affected. It was unknown if he’d be able to ride his bicycle again.

But with determination and a strong will, Padlo worked at his rehabilitation. Soon, he was able to ride his three-wheel recumbent bicycle.

There was only one problem, though. Padlo was living in a nursing home and was not allowed to ride his bicycle.

“I rode my bike a lot,” he said. “I was in a retirement home and then a nursing home, and I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike.”

Padlo contacted the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living and asked for help in leaving the nursing home and getting into his own home, where he would have freedoms that others have, like going for bike rides.

About a year ago, Padlo was reintegrated through the WGCIL’s reintegration program and was placed in a home in Morris, where he has the aid of personal assistants to help him in his daily tasks.

“I can ride my bike any time I want now,” he said.

One of his personal assistants, Roger Haefner, who started working for Padlo in November, said the bicycle is all Padlo talks about.

It isn’t just the freedom to ride a bicycle Padlo has gained. Padlo is also going back to college to get a degree.

“I can get on my computer any time I want, and I use it for everything,” he said. “I’m going to go to JJC and maybe take some classes online.”

He said he never finished college, but now he plans to do just that.

He is also a productive member of society again. He’s shopping locally, attending church every Sunday and he hopes to one day get married again.

He also is the employer of his two personal assistants, Haefner, and his daughter, Shannon.

“I was his neighbor for 15 years. Our kids played together,” Haefner said. “I worked in a nursing home a long time ago, and I took care of my wife’s parents, so when his family asked me to be his personal assistant, I said I would for a short period while they found someone permanent.”

That’s changed, after his first couple of weeks on the job. He decided that helping Padlo was something he wanted to do long term.

“I had quit my job and was ready for retirement when they asked me,” he said. “It started as a job, but now I call him my friend.”

Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living has reintegrated numerous people in the two counties it serves. Together, with the other 22 Centers for Independent Living in the state of Illinois, they have reintegrated nearly 2,000 residents since the program began. This program is now facing elimination.

Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 eliminates funding for the Community Reintegration Program.

“Centers had received a modest appropriation annually to assist hundreds of people under the age of 60 who want to and have transitioned out of costly nursing homes to their own homes in the community,” said Ann Ford, executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living said. ”For every person transitioning out of a nursing home, the state saves a minimum of $2,000 monthly.”

Ford said the state has saved $176 million through the duration of the project.

“In light of the governor’s FY 2012 Budget for community services, his cuts and elimination of programs fly in the face of his earlier promises and commitment to people with disabilities and his own plan,” Ford said.

In addition to the elimination of the reintegration program, the governor is also proposing a 36-percent cut in the Department of Human Services budget, which funds the Centers for Independent Living.

At a rally in Springfield on Tuesday, many of the Centers united to speak out about the impact these cuts would have to disabled residents of Illinois. They went to talk to and drop off literature at their respective state senators and representatives in offices.

In addition to the cost savings to the state these programs offer, it was also pointed out that reintegration creates jobs.

Many of the consumers who are reintegrated employ between two and three personal assistants, creating jobs in their community.

These jobs directly put money back into the economy, as does the consumer who now has control of their own money and is able to spend it locally.

“Disabilities affect one in five people,” Ford said. “Eliminating essential programs and drastically cutting others will cost the state millions. It will adversely impact the quality of life of thousands of people with disabilities, and it will keep others who wish to move out of nursing homes from doing so.”

Padlo can’t imagine what life would have been like if he was forced to stay in a nursing home. He wants others to have the same chance to live life that he now has.

“I’m opposed to the cuts,” he said. “It’s cheaper in the long run if a person can just go home.”

Copyright © 2011 Morris Daily Herald. All rights reserved.