Friday Feature #4- Innovative Life Solutions’ Community Outreach Team
In 2018 Innovative Life Solutions (ILS) founded its Community Outreach Team to address the disconnect which they perceived between ILS and the community at large. “We were supporting people in the community, helping vulnerable populations,” ILS COO Shinavia McKinney explained, “but we really weren’t as involved and engaged as we wanted.” This team of people with and without disabilities was inspired by William O. Jackson, who began working on a blog for ILS discussing issues pertinent to those with disabilities and the businesses and community members whom they interact with.
When asked why he joined the team, William replied, “Because I like being with people and sharing what I do… It makes me really happy.” Next to join was Nathina Jackson who, due to previous experience with community projects, brought significant outreach and engagement expertise to the team. “I just love helping people, that’s why I joined the community outreach side.” Nathina described that “it gave me the opportunity to show the things that I do in my everyday life anyway.” Ivan Cloyd heads the Advocacy and Policy side of the team, working on giving everyone in the community a platform, regardless of their affiliation with ILS. Jonathan Vaughn works on creative projects for the team. He enjoys being able to utilize his greatest strengths in a way that helps others. Jonathan stated, “Whatever they have going on in their heads, I can express that in a visual manner.”
Once COVID-19 hit, the team had to devise different ways to safely serve their community. Shinavia indicated, “Adversity brings about changes and I think this is just something we were able to fluidly adjust with. I’m grateful for that.” The team saw that their immediate community of ILS required support during this time, so one of their first projects was creating care bags for COVID-19 positive employees and residents who were subject to quarantine limitations. Items included hand sanitizer, soup, tea and fruit cups; anything they thought would help them through the healing process. Nathina was looking for, “Safe things people could utilize at home as if they were out in the community.” Additionally, during this time the team delivered food and necessities to the homeless population and held presentations featuring community partners on how they can support people with disabilities during COVID-19. Even during the pandemic, the Community Outreach Team ensured that they were not only serving the ILS community, but the community at large.
The ILS Community Outreach Team has also been hard at work on several noteworthy virtual projects. Jonathan and Nathina have been making videos, spoken word pieces and podcasts to share with the community. “We collected all different types of content so people can stay entertained at home,” Jonathan said. They will soon be sharing this content on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and make sure to keep an eye out for their new Instagram page, set to be activated soon. Another important hub of information is the recently revamped ILS website, innovativelife.org. This will soon feature William’s blog posts and information about upcoming events. One event which the team is specifically anticipating is their Recovery Month event on September 15th at 1 PM, featuring several speakers discussing their experiences recovering from substance abuse and trauma. ILS is continuing to grow its online presence and connections with community partners every day. They are constantly adapting and creating new ways to improve community outreach. Not even a worldwide pandemic has slowed them down. Congrats, ILS !