Chicago Tonight story featuring Avenues to Independence and Bob Okazaki.
Nice interview Bob! Click on the the link to see the entire story.


Helping Adults with Disabilities Achieve Independence

A longtime community-based agency based in Park Ridge is celebrating the
reopening of its Thrift Shoppe, used to help its clientele learn skills. The shop
serves as a training center where clients can earn job skills. But the agency is
one of many facing a reduced budget since the Illinois General Assembly failed
to extend the temporary income tax hike. We meet several families who’ve
benefitted from Avenues to Independence’s work over the years, and find out
how the agency plans to make up its lost income.

Her mother says this is the place where Amanda Krischke fits right in.

“I do the book department, and I make pillows and purses here,” Amanda
Krischke said.

Amanda works at this Thrift Shoppe in Park Ridge as part of the job training
program at Avenues to Independence.
In addition to working at the store, the 26-year-old sewing fan earns money by
selling the items she makes herself.
“Oh my, it’s great. I just made a Blackhawks pillow for the Blackhawks’ season,
and that got out last week, put it out on the ground and finished it, and it was
sold by Saturday morning. I sold it for $7.”

She’s saving up for her trip to New York with family this summer.

“Never been on an airplane, never been to New York before,” she said “I’m
very anxious. I’m very like, like, I’m jumping out of my body, that’s how excited
I am right now.”

Her mother, Shirley Krischke, says working in the Thrift Shoppe has given her
daughter skills to be able to do more things on her own, but also the
confidence she needs.

“She works, gets things done, and she accomplishes things,” Shirley Krischke
said. “And I think she’s happy, and it teaches her responsibility, because she
gets here on time. She enjoys it so much. The socialization is wonderful.”
That’s the goal at Avenues to Independence.

The 60-year-old nonprofit helps adults with intellectual and developmental
disabilities reach their highest levels of independence.

Clients with anything from ADHD, to cerebral palsy, to Down syndrome can
benefit from the residential and employment programs, like the one here at

the Thrift Shoppe.

“We are in the new part. If you can imagine all of this kind of crammed into
the space we have just adjacent to here,” Avenues to Independence
President and CEO Bob Okazaki said.

The Thrift Shoppe is celebrating its grand reopening, after a $125,000

“It’s been a pretty tough winter, and to the extent that people would’ve liked to
drop stuff off, the snow was 10 feet high out back, they didn’t bother coming out
of their house,” Okazaki said. “And it was a huge pent up demand when the
weather finally broke. Piles of stuff came in left and right. Fortunately, we had
already opened this side and plenty of space for us to take in contributions.”

Okazaki explains it’s important for the Thrift Shoppe to continue to function even
though the organization is facing a massive budget cut.

“There is a growing demand for good services for people with intellectual and
other developmental disabilities. The state unfortunately has not provided the
kind of support that programs like ours need to in order to service the growing
numbers of people in need,” he said. “And it’s been incumbent upon us and
other organizations to try and raise privately the resources that the state’s not

Okazaki says Avenues gets about 65 percent of its almost $5 million budget
from the state.

The nonprofit is now facing a $600,000 annual budget reduction since the state
legislature failed to extend the temporary income tax hike. Meaning, the
organization will have to do more to raise funds from private donors to support
the 200 adults who come to Avenues for help.

“The particular program that you see here is 100 percent privately funded,”
Okazaki said. “We just completed a major fundraising campaign, and one of the
goals of that campaign was to increase the opportunities for people to have new
training for employment opportunities.”

It’s the kind of help that has not only given 41-year-old Nora Prindiville her
independence, but it’s given her parents, Mike and Mary, a bit of freedom as well,
since she’s able to live with roommates, instead of her parents.
“We can vacation more than we did before,” Mike Prindiville said. “It’s her future.
Avenues has a policy; if you’re with us, you’re with us forever. No one leaves us.”

“Which is a great comfort to us,” Mary Prindiville added.

Knowing that Nora can get along without them.

“And that’s what it’s about right? Yeah. Doing what you want to do,” Mike
Prindiville said.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)