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FRIDAY FOCUS: Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living

The Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living (SMCIL) was founded to create a resource for people with disabilities to live and participate in all aspects of community life, as independently as possible. Through the many programs and services they offer, SMCIL provides the opportunity and assistance needed to control and direct ones own life, to live how they want to live and enjoy life without worrying about the failures. It was a pleasure learning from Lidiya Belyovska, Executive Director of SMCIL, all the special moments they have encountered and times they have successfully promoted independence.  
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.) 
Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living is a nonresidential nonprofit organization that serves individuals with any disability through our five (5) core services: Independent Living skills training, Advocacy (systemic and individual), Peer Mentoring, Transition and Information & Referral services. We also have an Assistive Technology (AT) program that provides equipment (i.e. communication devices, ramps, durable medical equipment, vehicle and home modifications) that will promote our consumer’s level of independence. We pride ourselves in helping our consumers live independently through person centered goals, by empowering them to make decisions that will be beneficial to their independence. We provide application assistance in pursuance of financial stability through federal and state benefits such as Veteran’s disability compensation/pension, SSI and SSDI through Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid as well as other state and federal benefits.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)? 
To name one favorite moment is almost impossible because when any of our consumers gain a better level of independence we celebrate as if it was our very own accomplishment. SMCIL has assisted our veterans through our monthly Veteran Support Network meetings by providing information and application assistance that helps them get their well-deserved benefits in place. We have successfully assisted our veterans in receiving their benefits and back pay in an excess of a cumulative amount of over $200,000.00 (and that is estimation of monies). To see the joy on our consumer’s faces when they receive equipment that will allow them to be in the mainstream of high school instead of a class full of individuals with differing abilities is amazing. One of our students had problems with reading and taking notes in class. The school provided an accommodation by having a scribe follow him throughout the day. This caused him to be embarrassed and showed the rest of the class that there was something different about him. Through our partnership with the local school system we purchased a Micro Surface Pro laptop and Kurzweil program that was installed as well as one on one training with a representative from Kurzweil, SMCIL staff, the consumer and his mom. The student no longer requires the use of a scribe and is now excelling in school with his new level of independence. Favorite moment impossible, ALL of our moments that promote independence are our favorite.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenges are finances. All our services (except small portion of Assistive Technology) comes at no cost to the families or the individual. We have multiple grants and are always on the lookout for any other grants that we can apply for. Even still we will do all that we can to provide our consumers with the necessary services that will promote their independence.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
On every 2nd Friday of the month from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. we host a Disabled Veteran’s Support Network (DVSN) meeting. At this meeting, veterans are provided with necessary information to the benefits that may be available to them as well as a hot meal. DVSN is available to all veterans and free of charge. Our veterans share personal experience and offer support to each other that we as civilians cannot relate to.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
To become involved in SMCIL services and programs you can contact us at 301-884-4498 ext. 7 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Should you desire to volunteer or become a Peer Mentor we can be reached at the above stated number. The Center is located at 38588 Brett Way, Suite1, Mechanicsville MD 20659. We also accept monetary donations. Please visit our Facebook: SMCIL and our website: www.smcil.org