Archived Story

Center offers free services for those with disabilities [UPDATED]

Published 10:13am Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Updated 12:14pm Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By Heather Rule

Daily Journal

The Freedom Resource Center in Fergus Falls wants to get the word out: It’s here, and it provides free services for people with disabilities.

The non-profit has been around for 25 years, helping people “become as independent as possible,” said Tyler Axness, communication and policy coordinator, whether that’s through help with finding employment or health care access.

Freedom Resource Center is a disability rights organization that serves people with any disability at any age. Core services include information and referral, individual advocacy, peer mentoring, systems advocacy, and independent living skills training.

“We have this free service… but we’re not getting the people,” Axness said. “We try to be the one-stop shop for anything disability related.”

Freedom Resource Center is fully funded by state and federal grants. About 19 percent of people on average have some sort of disability, Axness said, and that number rises with people living longer. The quest is simple: Just try and help people meet a goal they have, whatever that may be. It’s up to the individual to determine how independent he or she is.

“If they can’t qualify elsewhere, we try to make it as easy as possible for people to get assistance,” said Rebecca Waldera, advocate with the center. “We can kind of fill that gap a little bit for people. We just try to listen to the person and help them accomplish what they are looking for. We are very underutilized.”

The center tries to be aware of things in the community that might hinder those with disabilities, for example, looking at how city code snow removal policies affect those with disabilities. They can also be an advocate for a student with disabilities, or help people find employment or purchase their first home.

“Kind of being that voice for the masses,” Waldera said.

The center also has monthly social events in the community, for everyone, not just those with disabilities.

“A lot of people in the community, especially those with disabilities, were feeling isolated,” Waldera said. “We just try to mix it up a little bit.”

Tuesday, it was a trip to the Otter Tail County Historical Museum to view the Civil War exhibit. The events give people a chance to do something fun and interact with others.

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“Our focus in Fergus Falls is really just trying to help those individuals that might not know that we’re here,” Axness said. “We just want everybody to know that we’re here and we’re free.”

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