2018 Annual Report

     Stories of CILO Staff’s Service to 4,100+ Families

     A client was beaten, prostituted and eventually sold for crack. Her trafficker’s brother tried to help her and failed. He then slit his wrists in front of her and died. The mother of both men came in and saw her son dead and had a heart attack and died in front of the woman. Later, the trafficker, found out about his brother and mother. He also attempted suicide but survived. During this ordeal, the young woman called 911. Police came and rescued her and gave her CILO’s contact information. William Genem coordinated her case with her family, local law enforcement, and the FBI. He secured services to get her basic needs met with food, healthcare, housing and trauma counseling.


   BF (below) is a 26-year-old man with autism, who lives in Stuart with roommates and works in the Nutrition Department at Martin Memorial South Hospital.When we met BF he was working part-time five days a week and was spending too much of his small salary on transportation.His mom could drive him some days, but BF was determined to get to work on his own. Program Specialist Joe Anderson signed up BF for the United Way of Martin County Riding to Independence program to pay for Uber rides to get to and from work. This enabled him not just to get to work but to work extra shifts when needed to show his value. Plus he learned to ride a scooter to work, and Joe helped him get qualified for Transportation Disadvantaged benefits. BF told Joe, “The United Way’s grant and coaching from Joe and my job coach Victoria has helped me to become more important at work because I can now be consistent and available when they need me. I am also now full-time and have been offered health benefits through work due to all my hard work.”

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      Irene Sirois arranged for six shut-in clients to receive free videophones installed in their homes so she can give them life skills training without leaving the office.


     During the past year, CILO staff have signed up 130 families to receive $13,883 a month in food stamps – most by Rebecca Jonguitud, who also registered clients for about $10,000 a month in Medicaid benefits.


           Varah Siedlecki taught work skills to a young man who got a job and even passed his driver’s license test. Part of his training was how to save and budget money and now he has researched, identified and purchased a car, bought insurance and registered the vehicle in his name. Thanks to Varah’s efforts, he has gained freedom and independence for the first time in his life.

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     Glenn Stahl’s first case involved a domestic violence victim whose abuser brainwashed her child and convinced the daughter to live with him. Glenn quickly arranged for a victim’s compensation application, restraining order,  legal aid referrals for custody issues, transportation, financial assistance and food!


      Libby Snider assisted a mother with a minor who was sexually assaulted by her father. The abuse was reported but no charges were filed. The mother also needed help filling out an application for SSDI due to a recent diagnosis. Libby helped the mother to connect to counseling services for herself and her child and directed her to Susan Carberry in West Palm Beach for help with her disability claim. 


     On the Tuesday before Irma, the West Palm Beach office was busy with requests for food from our clients. When Darlene Williamson’s son’s scout meeting was cancelled to allow families to prepare for the storm, her family decided to make a trip to the grocery store for the CILO food pantry. They filled their carts with canned meat, pasta and sauce, ramen noodles, canned vegetables and granola bars. Darlene’s boys sorted and packed the food which was quickly distributed at CILO. When Darlene arrived home from work that night her youngest immediately asked if people who needed it got the food. This led to a discussion about the importance of making a commitment to service to community, to help others in a time of need and a reminder how even a small act of service can make a great impact.


     On the Thursday before Irma, Joe Anderson made his way around parts of St. Lucie and Martin counties putting up plywood and asking if anyone needed help. Joe installed wood and metal shutters for three households in Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. On Friday, Joe went to the neighborhoods he lived in as a child in Jensen Beach and Langford Park to assist as many people as he could with shutters. One stop that stuck out the most was three middle-aged women attempting to install shutters with rented equipment from Home Depot.

     The next day Joe also helped an elderly couple in Fort Pierce that had been promised by a man that he’d put up their shutters, but he never showed. Joe heard on Facebook that they still needed someone but did not have money to pay. Joe drove over in storm conditions and put up their shutters and gave them water, Gatorade and cans of food.                


    William Genem & Leslie Martin represented CILO at Fright Night at Clematis by Night.

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     Brandy Macaluso received a call from a long-time victim of sexual torture. Throughout her time as a CILO client, she was engaged in a same-sex relationship because she was traumatized by the thought of intimate contact with men. She was previously diagnosed with torture trauma equated to being a prisoner of war. She completed intensive counseling with us, including healthy relationship recognition and PTSD therapy from a partner organization. She also did not have an identity – she did not want to keep her former name because it was associated with her trauma. She went completely off the grid and was living in a tent in various settings, moving from state to state. CILO helped her get a legal name change and identification and file paperwork to get healthcare. Then she successfully opened her own business and got an apartment. She called a few months later to say that she got married to a man. She was very happy and very comfortable with him. He was willing to forego intimate contact until she was ready. During the hurricane, she fled with her new husband to Georgia. Next she called Brandy to let her know she could close her case. She made a bid on a house that was accepted and she was moving to Georgia. She said she owed it all to CILO and Brandy for helping her get an identity to live a normal life, get healthcare, an ID, buy a vehicle, file taxes, start a business and buy a house. She also happily told Brandy that she is expecting her first child and has never been happier.


     During August Shannon Pretorius advocated for a 6-year-old kindergarten student with Down Syndrome in Martin County to receive more mainstream education time. The plan for A.C. included no instructional time in the general education setting. That means that A.C. was separated from her non-disabled peers for all of her learning time. After discussions with the parent and reviewing A.C.’s data, Shannon advocated for A.C.’s best interest and least restrictive environment and a new schedule was created that included time for the child in the general education setting where she can learn alongside her peers. Now A.C. will receive differentiated instruction based on state standards. Shannon will continue to work with the family to advocate for A.C.’s needs.


     After Hurricane Irma, we raised tens of thousands of dollars to help our clients with emergency expenses such as rent after they have been evicted, FPL bills and to replace medicines. More than 20 families facing eviction received help.

    As an example, after the storm destroyed their apartment, 8 people with debilitating disabilities -- including 2 children -- were about to be forced out of their tiny room at Motel 6 as their FEMA funds ran out.They had no money for food or another motel. Two were undergoing cancer treatment. Glenn Stahl brought them bags of food from our pantry.The conversation turned to safe housing and the father said his brother could loan the family a trailer from St. Petersburg if they could get gas money. Glenn used our hurricane grants to pay for one more night at the Motel 6, found a campground with utilities that would take the family and bought the needed gas cards. The next day the trailer settled into the Lion Country camp ground with the bill paid for the next 2 months. The family was grateful and could not say thank you enough. Glenn and intern Kimberly Shields created independent living plans for all 8 family members, including a financial plan to put them on track with enough money for a new apartment when the lot lease expired.


      A mother of 5 got into a “taxi” only to be kidnapped and robbed, and then the man attempted to sexually assault her. She kicked him off and got away but her clothes were torn. The woman went to what she thought was the police department, however, the “officer” was very rude, told her that it was her fault for being kidnapped and that he would make sure her and her family were deported.The victim and her husband were fearful to go to work because they were afraid they would be deported even though they have active immigration applications. Her children were also terrified to go to school in case they left and came home to find their parents deported. The entire family was traumatized.

   When William Genem heard of the situation he quickly called PBSO, which is the only police agency with jurisdiction in the area in which the crime occurred, and prompted a Violent Crimes Division investigation. The investigators conducted a thorough investigation, created a proper police report, and William filed a claim for victim compensation.The investigation revealed that the person the woman spoke to was not a PBSO officer but a Tri-Rail security guard. The mother was reassured that immigration officers are not looking for her or her family. She returned to work and the children returned to school.


      Most CILO families are extremely poor. Thus our board of directors and staff have joined together to ensure our families don’t go hungry.

      Rene Favreau operates our pantry which gives meat, vegetables, fruit, bread and canned goods to as many as 100 families a month. At Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys, chickens and holiday items are given away so families can cook a feast and celebrate together.  At our after-school and summer camp programs, youth earn credits and then use them to “buy” food they then place in backpacks and take home to their families on weekends.

      We also gave out mosquito repellent to those who could not afford it.

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    Irene Sirois, showed BG and his potential roommate how to utilize online tools to find an affordable apartment closer to work. BG was commuting from Belle Glade to Boynton Beach. Irene shared an apartment hunting checklist and emphasized the cost of the rent, the length of lease, security deposit fees and monthly utilities. When the roommate pulled out, Irene asked and a real estate agent found a replacement. Nov. 24 BG received the keys and moved in.


      IL is a single mother of a 9-month-old and sole caretaker for her very ill elderly mother. IL has severe glaucoma which keeps her indoors and away from the sun; she’s almost blind.

     The family has no vehicle and lives on the grandmother’s Social Security while IL applies for her own benefits. After Hurricane Irma, IL lost her roommate and fell way behind on her bills. The family’s utilities were cut off and the only water they had was in a bucket from a neighbor. Kim Pastrana delivered food from the CILO pantry and signed IL for our hurricane fund – we paid bills so utilities could be turned back


    As a result of Varah Siedlecki leveraging community resources and remaining diligent in the search for a new residence, senior citizen HG moved into a refurbished condominium at Century Village in West Palm Beach. HG finally feels  safe and has a social community in which he can enjoy healthy relationships and participate in activities. Before he lived in a dilapidated Belle Glade rental property which created several health and safety issues. HG was concerned with the drug activities that occurred in a nearby parking lot.


     As a trainer for the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches (HTCPB), Tanya Meade was part of a team that delivered a Human Trafficking 101 presentation to students in a faith-based, after-school program at Atlantic Community High School and identified dozens of victims.

     This was only one of many presentations Tanya made throughout the year and unfortunately every time she spoke to a group many participants revealed that they have been victimized in some way.

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     Terry Roth met with staff at the Domestic Violence Shelter in Okeechobee for orientation to discuss resources for victims of domestic abuse with disabilities. An intake was done for one victim that needed help with applying for disability. We made the referrals for her to get assistance with her disability claim and will follow up as needed.


     JT's mother informed Daniel Cadorette that her son was demoted to part-time in his work program because he couldn’t communicate with his supervisors, co-workers, and customers. But after the after-school staff focused on communications during January, Daniel heard JT’s supervisor was raving about how JT had been much happier and communicating with co-workers and customers. JT’s mom said, "it has to be his after-school ALERT program!"


                Susan Carberry got Wilfredo’s Social Security benefit restored after it was cancelled due to an error. He had a medical review, which initially found he was no longer disabled. Once his medical records were updated, however, that decision was reversed and his benefits restored. SSA failed to update the record, and despite 3 in-person visits to the West Palm Beach office, he couldn’t get anyone to fix the error. Susan stepped in and got a supervisor to correct the error and issue an emergency check until the benefit payment center could update the record and issue his check.

       Throughout the year Susan answers countless questions from people struggling to understand how the Social Security system works and to receive answers in a timely manner, She is constantly monitoring dozens of appeals and at least 16 times in the past year she won. And, her clients received more than $200,000 in retroactive benefits and more than $17,000 a month in ongoing monthly benefits. 


    Many thanks to Maite Reyes-Coles for all year, and specially in this report, assembling the numbers that help us measure success.


     Ralph and Sara wanted to buy a home and asked Irene Sirois to help them find a real estate agent who could communicate through American Sign Language. Irene introduced them to Jerald Cohen, who is deaf licensed realtor. He found the couple a home in Lake Worth and they are very satisfied.


     Libby Snider was requested by the State Attorney’s office to assist the mother of a homicide victim. Libby was with her through the trial where the man who murdered her son was found guilty and convicted. Libby also provided emotional support as well as clothes and food for the victim’s mother.


     Michele Sanz received high praise from the manager at Harbor Network Agency in Stuart for her “Healthy Relationships” presentation! Seven clients of the facility attended and were very engaged and eager to participate in the discussions, share their stories and ask in-depth questions. After the presentation Michele stayed for over an hour and a half to talk with each client individually, and answer their questions about CILO and its free services.


     Student advocacy is a major component of CILO’s Treasure Coast initiative. With nearly 11,000 students with disabilities attending Treasure Coast public schools, there is a great need for special education/student advocates. CILO is one of the only organizations that hires staff qualified to deliver special education advocacy and allows them to attend school meetings at no cost to the parent; a huge help to families who are unfamiliar with the system. Because enrollment numbers are so high, Shannon Pretorius and Angela Van Etten needed to find another way to engage parents in a setting where they could access support for their children. Angela and Shannon developed a monthly evening forum for parents of students with disabilities; a casual, intimate environment for parents to ask questions regarding their child’s special education plans or needs, or to ask for support to be sure their child is reaching his/her academic potential. Shannon and Angela have arranged for specialists, independent of the school districts, to help address questions as well. Parents expressed gratitude and relief when their questions were easily answered. Repeat attendees now come simply to hear the discussions and learn more about the education system. Parents are connecting and supporting each other by sharing their own experiences. Angela has retired, but Shannon plans to grow the forum to reach as many parents as possible.


     Libby Snyder received the 2018 Treasure Coast Outstanding Victim Advocate of the Year Award from the 19th Judicial Circuit! She was honored in front of about 80 of her peers at the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Luncheon. She was nominated by 2 different agencies. Last year our Ashley Rinaldi won the award.

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     Brandy Macaluso held another successful annual event for National Crime Victims Rights Week at the Brewhouse Gallery in Lake Park. This was our 3rd Annual THRIVE event in which crime victims with disabilities share a musical piece, performance art, poetry or spoken word pieces. This year we hosted 7 crime victims that shared their stories with 50 attendees. Intern Danielle Dinardo coordinated getting free cupcakes from Johnson Cakes of Wellington. She also procured several donations for our ticket auction and 2 cash donations.

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     The St. Lucie County man was overwhelmed. He needed help but didn’t know how and where to start. So Shannon Pretorius spent many hours on the phone sharing referrals for mental health services, counseling and housing. Then Shannon connected him with Brandy Macaluso regarding parenting classes, case management organizations that work with the uninsured and counseling. Shannon also referred him to Susan Carberry for a Social Security disability application and advice. Then Joe Anderson and Shannon met the man to help him follow up with referrals and to craft a plan for the job placement program he is in. Prior to finding CILO, this man felt alone, unsupported and unsure about his future. Thanks to the teamwork of CILO staff from three departments and three sets of expertise, this young man now sees that help is available – and he is grateful.


    During May 2016 Irene Sirois helped ON fill out and mail the I-400 application for naturalization citizenship. Then she met weekly with him to practice and prepare for an interview with an immigration officer. When the letter finally came, Irene intervened to ensure ON had a translator. He passed his quizzes on English, U.S. history and government and Feb. 13 received his U.S. citizenship certificate.


     Terry Roth arranged for a fraud victim’s air conditioner to be fixed within 4 days of meeting her!  The victim was beyond happy at how well she slept with a much cooler home. Terry assisted the victim to retrieve her funds from her bank due to a fraud case. She also worked with local resources to fix plumbing leaks and connect her to a food pantry.


    Last November, Angela Van Etten reported DB’s transportation crisis. Unable to drive due to being blind, DB was about to lose her job of 22 years because she could not afford the trip co-pays. Angela successfully advocated with the Division of Blind Services and Direct Connect to cover the co-pays and DB's job was saved! However, in April there was another transportation crisis! Direct Connect ran out of money and DB was going to lose her job for the second time! Angela and Joe Anderson worked together to approve DB for CILO financial assistance to pay for her work trips in May (her employer shuts down in the summer). Because DB was one of hundreds of riders affected by the loss of Direct Connect funding, Angela organized clients and agencies to speak at the St. Lucie County Transportation Disadvantaged May meeting. DB was among the speakers informing the board of the huge need for trips to work and challenging them to provide more employment trips. DB's message was loud and clear, board members appeared receptive, and Joe will attend future quarterly meetings to be sure they don't forget. 


     MS requires an oxygen tank 24/7 to breathe. The tank requires electricity, but she could not pay FPL because a neighbor stole her utilities money. Frantic and in tears, MS called CILO and spoke to Kim Pastrana 2 days before her power was to be shut off. Kim helped fill out the emergency funds application, and CILO paid the FPL balance the next day. A grateful MS said: “…you brought happiness, sunshine and hope into my life.”

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     CB, 31, uses a walker and a wheelchair to get around but couldn’t get in and out of the shower. She contacted Joe Anderson, and he arranged for shower grab bars. To assist with moving from room to room, Joe also helped CB get tile installed in her home for free through a church volunteer program after her contractor stole her money and didn’t complete the job.


     D.B. has been in a Special Education classroom with a 4:1 student to teacher ratio for 4 years. Shannon Pretorius responded to D.B.’s panicked and angry parent who said the school was taking away her son’s IEP and moving him to a class of 18 students and 1 teacher, with no specialized instruction. Shannon advocated for D.B. in a 3-hour meeting where the school found D.B. no longer eligible for special programming and attempted to dismiss D.B. from special education services. Shannon asked why the child has remained in a separate class setting for all academics if he didn’t need support. The IEP team agreed to keep D.B.’s services and begin a slow transition to the general education environment with supports in place along the way.


     Libby Snyder and Brandy Macaluso also held another successful annual event for National Crime Victims Rights Week in the Treasure Coast. Our SPEAK event was hosted at the Holiday Inn of Port St. Lucie and featured several guest speakers including civil trial attorney Michael Dolce and State Attorney Dave Aronberg to talk about Ashley’s Law, which was passed to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex crime survivors.

     There were 50 attendees made up of advocates, law enforcement and community members. We also recognized a victim advocate, law enforcement officer and agency for their commitment to go above and beyond in their service to individuals with disabilities. 


     Brandy Macaluso and Petra Pitkonen orchestrated the opening of the Treasure Coast office in May! We’re happily receiving clients and planning an August open house. Details coming soon! Thanks to Jacquie Shorter we have food pantry items on hand in case we receive calls from hungry clients.


     Michele Sanz participated in a veteran’s outreach event May 5 at the Military Museum Park to promote the opening of the renovated museum and highlight the services available to veterans in the community. The evening concert sold over 2,000 tickets, and CILO staff were present and visible throughout talking to people in the crowd and explaining our free services.

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      JK, 90, had to have his home modified because he couldn’t get in and out of the tub and shower due to ill-fitting toilet seats. Then Joe Anderson stepped in and recommended a contractor CILO works with regularly and helped JK fill out an emergency funds application. CILO paid for the modifications as soon as they were completed.

 

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